Are your feeling stressed?
Deadlines. Day-to-day duties. A dizzying headspin. No wonder we’re feeling so stressed.
Stress drains our energy and is bad for our health. It’s time to tackle it head on and stop the adrenaline rush.
Rushing from one place to the next, grabbing snacks on the go? Stress is bad for us in many ways. But here’s the thing: We can avoid a lot of it by planning properly, learning to say no, and taking charge of everyday situations.
What is stress?
A stressor is a stimulus. It may be an event, object or person (real or imagined) that poses a threat to our well-being and initiates a stress response. Stress is a physiological, emotional and behavioural reaction to something or someone. It’s a complex reaction that causes our body to produce various hormones that prepare it for a ‘flight-or-fight’ response.
Your heart rate increases, your digestion decreases and blood rushes to the muscles. But what if we can’t flee or fight? We feel anxious. Anxiety makes us feel ill at ease and makes us focus on the negative things that could happen.
All frozen up? That’s the third possible response to stress. Procrastination, indecision, worrying and perceived powerlessness are all symptoms of the ‘freezing’ response.
‘Good’ stress vs ‘bad stress’
Of course, stress is not all bad. ‘Good’ stress (‘eustress’ or ‘optimal stress’) has a constructive function. It acts as a warning signal for us to be alert and prepare to act appropriately in certain situations. It can also motivate us to perform optimally and be creative in the way we solve a stressful situation.
Stress can be harmful if we’re exposed to it for long periods of time without the necessary rest and relaxation to counter it. This is often the case in situations where we cannot change the stressful circumstances and therefore feel out of control. Our personal perception can be clouded by anxiety, fatigue and low confidence.
But I manage my stress, don’t I?
Everyone’s stress patterns, symptoms and reactions are different. The trick is to be aware of your own ‘warning signals’ when faced with a stressful situation and to take charge before the situation deteriorates.
Your stress levels will depend on how much stress you experience, for how long and how you manage it. If you’re chronically stressed for a prolonged period of time, you may eventually collapse.
Tick. Tock. Time-strapped?
Read the books? Took the time-management course? Still struggling to manage your time effectively? Poor time management can be a major source of stress. Time is a precious resource – we can’t get it back, replace or reverse it. Keeping up a good work-life-play balance is vital in order for us to live a happy, fulfilled life.
Decide what’s important to you and what you want to achieve. Then set practical goals and take steps that get you closer to those goals. This will help you prioritise. Remember to not only prioritise work, but also play. Use a to-do list if it helps you organise these priorities in order of importance.
What else can I do?
- Exercise is a great way to combat stress and use the preparedness for fighting or fleeing in a constructive way.
- Take a break to help you cope with the demands of a busy life. This could mean a well-deserved holiday or simply a 10-minute break from your desk to put a stressful situation into perspective.
- Decide what works for you. There’s no magic formula to send stress away. Sometimes it helps to keep a sense of humour or simply step away. And sometimes it’s just plain practice.
Written by Leigh van Heerden, a biokineticist, on the myvirginactive team.
Photo by Stuart Pilbrow