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Cure #8: Are You STRESSED? Find Out! Learn How to Manage Stress!

So What is STRESS After All?

Stress is triggered by any event that disturbs your physical, mental, or emotional well being. It is your body's adaptive "flight or fight" response to the events it perceives as disturbing/threatening to your safety or well being. Whenever this stress response kicks in, your blood rushes into your muscles, adrenaline is pumped into your blood, and your heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure increase. You're STRESSED!

Where Does Stress Come From? Humans evolved the stress response to fight off wild animals. Today, stress itself is the "wild animal". Untamed and allowed to run rampant in your life, "bad" stress can kill you. This is not to say that all stress is bad: "good" stress is an essential part of successful living.

"Good Stress" is a balance between excitement and relaxation that can help you concentrate, focus, and achieve what you want. Good stress helps you become centered, clear, and ready for action. Long term, good stress releases your energy and helps you to become more of who you are.

"Bad Stress" is a never ending, constant arousal and anxiety causing your body to react with heart palpitations, continual sweating, stomach acidity, muscle spasms, and high blood pressure. Long term, bad stress can cause irreparable damage to your physical and mental health and well being.

What Causes Stress? Stress is caused both by your "interpretations of" and "responses to" situations going on "outside" and "inside" you. Notice that it is YOUR interpretations and YOUR responses which cause your stress. It is not the situations which cause stress but how you deal or do not deal with them.

"Inside" causes of stress (internal stressors) include such things as:

LifeStyle Choices:
too much junk food/caffeine, overloaded schedule, no sleep,no exercise.
High Risk Personality:
Type A, perfectionistic, rigid beliefs, workaholic, people pleaser.
Negative Self-Talk:
pessimistic thinking, self criticism, over analyzing, beating yourself up.
Mind Traps:
unreal expectations, taking it personally, all or nothing thinking, exaggerating.

"Outside" causes of stress (external stressors) include such things as:

Daily Living:
traffic, commuting, misplacing keys or important items, mechanical breakdowns.
too much noise, too much/little light, too warm/cold, confined/cramped space.
Social Interaction:
rude, bossy, aggressive, argumentative, inconsiderate, mean people.
rules, regulations, laws, deadlines, "red tape", "do this, don't do that".
Major Life Events: see "Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Ratings Scale".

How Can Your Manage Your Stress? Here are the two simple steps...

1> Identify whatever it is that is causing you stress response to be triggered.
2> Picking/using the stress reduction techniques that work best for you.

Identifying your stress is easy. Just become aware of your body as you respond to different situations that you encounter in your daily life. Then ask yourself, "Does this situation, event, person, place, or thing…"

  • Make my muscles tense?
  • Make my heart pound?
  • Make my hands cold/clammy?
  • Give me a headache?
  • Give me a backache?
  • Give me a knot in the stomach?

Pick the stress reduction techniques that work best for you. If you want to avoid the stress of picking a technique, here are two that are quick and easy:

The EASY technique is just making a concerted effort to avoid whatever it is that is stressing you.
QUICK technique is to smile and laugh - it is hard to be happy and stressed at the same time.

When using stress reduction techniques, remember two things:

Your first goal is to learn how to lessen the impact of stress whenever you feel tense.
last goal is to learn how to replace the stress response with the relaxation response. (That's it!)

Dealing with "Inside" Causes of Stress

LifeStyle Choices: Good health is 20% heredity and 80% lifestyle choice…

Decrease your caffeine intake (coffee, tea, chocolate, colas) so that you can relax.
Eat a well balanced diet (no junk food), eat slowly, and get plenty of fluids and sleep.
Get on a regular program of exercise (at least 30 minutes, 3 times per week).
Read a book or a magazine, listen to music, watch TV or a video… and relax.

High Risk Personality: It will be hard to change but you can do it, if you try…

Go against your type - let the answering machine get your calls when you are relaxing.
Go against your type - head into a few weekends with no plans whatsoever.
Go against your type - if you are ill, do not try and carry on as if you are not.
Go against your type - know when you are tired and do something about it.

Negative Self-Talk: Looking at things more positively is a skill requiring practice…

Learn to see problems as opportunities and discard negative thoughts.
Take regular "time outs" to get away from things stressor (from a walk to a vacation).
Each day find some leisure time so that your body and mind can recharge and relax.

Mind Traps: If you are imprisoned by your mind, here is how to escape…

Find time for self renewal-rejuvenation: do something to elevate/feed your spirit.
Accept that you may never have organized closets or drawers, a tidy desk or house.
Do relaxation exercises (meditation, self hypnosis, breathing, smiling, laughing).

Dealing with "Outside" Causes of Stress

Daily Living: Make your day a little easier on yourself…

Have a place for everything and everything in it's place - it saves on "search missions".
Stock a shelf with items you would hate to run out of (ie. toilet paper, batteries, etc).
Keep cards and gifts around in case you forget a birthday or have a last minute party.

Environment: Do what you can to make your world a little more livable…

Too much noise… wear earplugs or ear protectors or ask others to "just keep it down".
Too much/little light… wear sunglasses/bring a light to brighten things.
Too warm/cold… bring a fan/sweater so you can stay comfortable.
Make your home your castle… a safe haven free from your cares and troubles.
Throw out, give away, or sell some of the clutter in your house… stuff equals stress.

Social Interaction: Other people can be the greatest source of your stress...

Do not expect total harmony all the time in relationships (real life involves conflict!!).
Do not expect everyone to like you, to share your opinions, or to adopt your beliefs.
Do not expect to be right all the time, know everything, or be all things to all people.
Do not expect to always have to live up to your own or to other's expectations.
Nurture your those who care for you: be good to those who support you.
Work on communication: be assertive rather than too aggressive or too passive.
Do not allow others to define your day: only you can decide the quality of your day.
Set limits: learn how to say "No" and to be "OK" with saying "No" when you need to.

Legal/Community: Try to join rather than beat the system...

Leave a few minutes earlier so you are not forced to "beat the traffic" or "speed".
Practice good time and money management skills: try writing checks as bills come in.
Consult proven experts: go to tax preparers instead of doing it yourself.

Major Life Events: Paying attention to managing your stress is CRITICAL…

Assess your stress by using the "Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Ratings Scale".
Do the stress reduction techniques that you feel comfortable with doing.
Above all, feel no guilt if you are not able to follow a single one of these suggestions!

Before using any of these techniques, click here for a "Word of Caution."

Credits: adapted from the "Stress Management Seminar" by Tracy J. Clark



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