What is Stress?
The word stress comes from the Latin word “stringere” – which means “to strain” or “to tighten.”
This is exactly what stress is about: in a stressful event our body tenses to allow for a quick response.
Stress is normal – it helps us to survive and react to our environment.
However, stress can become unhealthy and dangerous. In nature, our bodies are designed to react to a threat with a quick bodily response.
Normally, the threat would be dealt with and our body would return to normal.
In our hectic daily life, stress has become the normality so our bodies do not return to relaxation but are constantly tense to react to the multiple stress factors around us.
When we do not find time to unwind and our bodies never get to relax, stress becomes dangerous and unhealthy.
What can you do about stress?
1. Make A Decision: when faced with a stressful situation it is your decision whether you see it as stressful or not.
For example, if you are stuck in traffic on the way to work, you can either frantically switch lanes and hoot at other drivers, or you can sit back, listen to your radio and acknowledge that there is nothing you can do about it.
2. Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself: most people focus on the bad things rather than the good things.
How often do you talk to yourself in negative way? “stupid me.” “I can’t do this.”
Check the way you think about yourself and try to change the message you use.
Encourage and support yourself: “next time I’ll try harder,” “I will try the best I can” or “I’ll be all right.”
3. Check Your Diet: caffefine, sugar, fatty foods and alcohol are bad for you.
They deplete essential vitamins and raise arousal levels even further.
Switch to avocados instead – they contain natural anti-depressants and are excellent stress busters.
4. Exercise: exercise breaks down stress. When exercising you allow your body to physically react to stressors. After exercise you will find relaxing much easier.
5. Sleep: ensure that you get enough sleep – 6-8 hours should be enough.
6. Sex And Intimacy: yes it’s good for you! Sex and intimacy allow you to physically and emotionally relax.
7. Recreational Activities: have fun in your spare time. This will help you to shift your focus away from stress allowing for better work/ life balance.
8. Meaning: think about why you are doing all this. What is the meaning behind your life/ work/ family? Reflect on your priorities.
Habits of Effective Stress-Managers
they know how to relax
they eat right and exercise often
they get enough sleep
they don’t worry about the unimportant stuff
they don’t get angry often
they are organized
they manage their time effectively
they have and make use of a strong social support system
they live according to their values
they have a good sense of humour
…managing stress is not a magical process but rather one that means mastering new behaviours and finding new ways of looking at yourself and the world.”
Acknowledgment must be given to the Employee Wellness Programme Psychology department within the South African Revenue Service.
PS. I wish you a happy new year!