Well as promised I am working on several posts about Stress and how to identify your levels of stress, with some tools to manage it.
Stress, what does that mean to you? Do you feel like you are just hanging in there by a thread? Stress actually means something different to most people. We have good stress and bad stress….a little like good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, or good carbs or bad carbs. You get the picture! Stress is defined as strain felt by a person, which can have two main causes, either crises (major stress), or smaller everyday stressors.
Stress is an everyday fact of life, and there is no way to avoid it. It will result from any change you need to adjust to. Day to day living confronts us with a whole range of stress potentials. This stress that you experience can be the result of any major life changes, or just the cumulative effect of minor everyday problems….It is the way in which you respond to these events that determines the impact that stress will have on your life.
Stress has always been around however there has been a hike in stress levels dues to the fast pace of life, technology explosion, broken family relationships, and the high divorce rate. Expectations from work, working longer hours, with uncertainty about the future and the increase of major incidents such as natural disasters and terrorism all add to the stress incline.
1. The environment in which your live, and how it expects you to adjust. Examples of this are, weather, noise, traffic, air pollution, pollens.
2. The social stressors that demand your time and attention. Examples of this are, work deadlines, work presentations, job interviews, financial pressures, interpersonal conflicts, the loss of loved ones.
3. The physiological effect of change in our bodies such as puberty,, menopause, lack of exercise, weight gain, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, illness, injuries, and ageing.
4. The psychological effect of our thoughts. Our brain will assess when it needs to turn on the ‘stress response’ (flight or fight). So how you THINK and label your present situation will either serve you or tyrannise you. This is a major element in stress management, and helping you to cope with anxiety, burnout, and depression.
As mentioned we all have an adrenal response when we experience stress. This is what keeps us safe in times of danger, like when you need to move quickly across the road when you see a car approach suddenly. What has created problems is that during time of chronic stress, the adrenal glands don’t switch off which creates long-term negative effects on our bodies and adrenal exhaustion. Fortunately the same mechanism that will turn the stress response on, can also turn it off, and this is what we call the relaxation response.
Chronic or persistant stress can have dire effects on our lives. There is a relationship between chronic stress, disease, and ageing. Almost every system in the body can be damaged by stress, hence the importance to manage it!
So how do you know if you are stressed? Most of us are fairly self-aware, and know when we are just not feeling great physically, mentally, or emotionally. What we are not good at is knowing what is TOO much stress, and how to reduce it to a reasonable and healthy, manageable level.
The Holmes-Rahe Scale is a good tool to measure this. It will assess your current state, and the likelihood that you will experience emotional, or physical breakdown during the next two years. You can take this assessment HERE.
So there you have the causes and effects of stress. It certainly is something we all live with, and I know I have definitely had my fair share of stress over the years! Next time I will share with you tools that can help you to cope with and manage your stress level.