Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life. Surveys show that most Americans experience challenges with stress at some point during the year. In looking at the causes of stress, remember that your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This has been labeled the “fight-or-flight” response. Once the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal relaxed state. Unfortunately, the nonstop stress of modern life means that your alarm system rarely shuts off.
That’s why stress management is so important. Stress management gives you a range of tools to reset your alarm system. Without stress management, all too often your body is always on high alert. Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems. Don’t wait until stress has a negative impact on your health, relationships or quality of life. Start practicing a range of stress management techniques today.
Do you know anyone who isn’t at times stressed out these days? The pace of modern life makes stress management a necessary skill for everyone. Many people juggle multiple responsibilities, work, home life, caregiving and relationships. Learning to identify problems and implement solutions is the key to successful stress reduction.
The first step in successful stress relief is deciding to make a change in how you manage stress. The next step is identifying your stress triggers. Some causes of stress are obvious — job pressures, relationship problems or financial difficulties. But daily hassles and demands, such as commuting, arranging day care or being overcommitted at work, can also contribute to your stress level. Positive events also can be stressful. If you got married, started a new job and bought a new house in the same year, you could have a high stress level. While negative events in general are more stressful, be sure to also assess positive changes in your life.
Once you’ve identified your stress triggers, you can start thinking about strategies for dealing with them. Sometimes the solution may be as easy as turning off the TV when the evening news is too distressing. Or, when you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try brainstorming ways to reduce the irritation factor. And don’t feel like you have to figure it out all on your own. Anger Solutions Atlanta has a comprehensive program designed to help you to cognitively understand and reduce your stress along with physical stress reduction practices and techniques;aside from the cognitive understanding and managing of our stress, many people benefit from daily practice of stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, tai chi, yoga, meditation or being in nature.
Stress won’t disappear from your life. And stress management isn’t an overnight cure. But with practice, you can learn to manage your stress level and increase your ability to cope with life’s challenges.
Identify the sources of stress in your life
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your true sources of stress aren’t always obvious, and it’s all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Sure, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines. But maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that leads to deadline stress.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
- Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”).
- Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
Learn the four common types of stress
- TIME STRESS– You experience time stress when you worry about time, or the lack thereof. You worry about the number of things that you have to do, and you fear that you’ll fail to achieve something important.You might feel trapped, unhappy, or even hopeless. Common examples of time stress include worrying about deadlines or rushing to avoid being late for a meeting.
- ANTICIPATORY STRESS– Anticipatory stress describes stress that you experience concerning the future. Sometimes this stress can be focused on a specific event,such as an upcoming presentation that you’re going to give. However; anticipatory stress can also be vague and undefined, such as an overall sense of dread about the future, or a worry that “ something will go wrong.”
- SITUATIONAL STRESS– You experience situational stress when you’re in a scary situation that you have no control over. This could be an emergency. More commonly, however, it’s a situation that involves conflict, or a loss of status or acceptance in the eyes of your friends, family, or co-workers. For instance, getting laid-off or making a major mistake in front of others are examples of events that can cause situational stress.
- ENCOUNTER STRESS– Encounter stress revolves around people. You experience encounter stress when you worry about interacting with a certain person or group of people- you may not like them, or you might think they’re unpredictable. Encounter stress can also occur if your roll involves a lot of personal interactions with customers or clients, especially if those groups are in distress. For instance, physicians and social workers have high rates of encounter stress, because the people they work with routinely don’t feel well or are very upset. Encounter stress also occurs from “contact overload”: when you feel overwhelmed or drained from interacting with too many people.
Learning about the four common types of stress is a great way to start identifying the stress in our lives and learning the tools to manage each situation as it arises. While everyone experiences different physical and emotional symptoms of stress, it is important to understand how you respond to each one . when you can recognize the type of stress you are experiencing, you can take the “learned” steps to manage it more effectively.
Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress in your life. Your stress journal can help you identify them. Are your coping strategies healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately, many people cope with stress in ways that compound the problem.
Unhealthy ways of coping with stress
These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more damage in the long run:
Learning healthier ways to manage stress
If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four As: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, but Anger Solutions Atlantas stress management curriculum teaches many techniques and strategies to help you live a happier,stress free life.
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