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How to Manage Stress

How to Manage Stress

The demands of modern life, particularly for those of us in inner city areas, create
tensions for us all. It is an occupational hazard. From the workaholic, who just can't
switch of through to people who suffer stress from doing boring and repetitive work,
learning the art of relaxation can transform the way we feel about ourselves, our lives and
increase our energy and efficiency levels. The first aspect of managing stress effectively
is to understand what stress is, what causes it, what effect it can have on you and most
important how to avoid it and that's why recruitment experts Kelly Services have
compiled this fact sheet which covers the essential points.

What is stress
Some of the symptoms and effects of stress include feeling tense, trapped, keyed up,
nervous, not able to concentrate. It can cause aggression, irritability, being obsessive
about working, and changes in eating, drinking and smoking habits. On the health front
stress can mean headaches, exhaustion, upset stomachs, high blood pressure, breathing
difficulties and neck and back troubles. All these are negative and debilitating.
Stress should not however be confused with pressure. Pressure can be stimulating or
irritating but it is not debilitating. We all need a certain amount of pressure in our
everyday lives to function and for a lot of people increased pressure can be exciting,
motivating and energising.

How can I manage stress positively


One of the best defences against stress is to have a well balanced lifestyle backed up by a
healthy diet and an idea of the relaxation techniques that work for you. The following
techniques are a selection which can be successfully used to relieve tension and anxiety
during a difficult situation. They are not difficult and you will be able to use them
without anyone else being aware.

Stepping back from the situation


When you feel yourself becoming tense in a situation try stepping back from it and
observe how you are reacting. Are you perhaps imposing something unrealistic on
yourself or is someone else?
Does the situation really justify the negative stress level?
How will the situation look in a week, month or even a year's time? By distancing
yourself from what is going on you should be able to begin to take control and stop your
own stress level rising.

Better breathing
When we become anxious and tense our breathing changes. It becomes shallow, fast and
irregular. Try to be aware of your breathing as it gives an excellent early-warning signal
of tension. Concentrate on breathing deeply, taking your breath down to your diaphragm
and holding it there for a moment or two before exhaling. Try to get your breathing into a
comfortable rhythm and breathe in and out for the same length of time, say for a count of
3 or 4, until you begin to feel calmer.

Relax
Mental tension is always accompanied by physical tension particularly in muscles of the
face, shoulders, hands and back. A quick way to lessen the tension is to take each part of
the body starting perhaps with your eyes then your mouth, shoulders, arms etc. - clench
each set of muscles tightly so you can feel all the tension being concentrated in that one
place then release the tension letting it flow out of your body. These techniques need to
be practised and it is important to remember to breathe evenly and deeply at all times.

Easy eating
The benefits of a balanced diet are well known - everything in moderation is currently a
fashionable view with an emphasis on fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and pasta. But just
as we are what we eat, how we eat can affect our well being too. If you are feeling tense
you will have a tendency to bolt your food which is then difficult for your body to deal
with often resulting in indigestion and other stomach problems. Try to eat slowly and
peacefully and enjoy your meal. If you are feeling stressed you could consider vitamin
supplements.

Don't try to be perfect


When we are under stress many of us add to our problems by trying to be everything to
everybody - in fact trying to be perfect in every sphere of our home and work lives. We
become so busy being busy that we never get a chance to think about how we are coping
and about what is going on inside ourselves. If you feel this is happening to you take
stock of your situation. Think about what is important to you, what you want to focus on,
what you want to achieve rather than trying to live up to other people's expectations.

Don't spend time just worrying about a situation. Try to convert that anxiety into some
form of action which will help you to feel much more positive. Try not to worry about
things that haven't yet happened or that you can't do anything about.

Positive thinking
Don't let the superficial chaos of the world get you down - be your own person with your
own positive approach to life. Make time every day to close your eyes and use your
imagination to conjure up images of the things that give you pleasure or that you enjoy.
Don't under-estimate the importance of laughter. It immediately relaxes all your facial
muscles and is one of the best safety valves for strained nerves. Try to be optimistic
particularly last thing at night and first thing in the morning - don't let the cares of the
world get you down before you've even had your breakfast. For many people negative
thinking becomes a habit and a very bad one. Try to break the mould and take control of
your own thoughts.

Summary

• Try to identify your own stress triggers


• Adopt techniques which work for you - we all cope with stress differently
• Be aware of your own symptoms of stress
• Accept yourself and don't try to be perfect
• Take action to tackle your problems
• Look after yourself physically and mentally
• Be positive
Stress Management
What is STRESS?:

With every major event in our lives, (a health problem, the birth of a child, or a new relationship), there
are changes that require us to mobilize resources and make adjustments. Some events such as
deadlines, competitions, and confrontations may produce feelings of eagerness and excitement,
particularly when we think that we have a chance of overcoming the challenge. The arousal you feel
when you try to meet these challenges is considered healthy. However, when a situation or event is
perceived by a person as being overwhelming, beyond their abilities to cope, and threatening to their
well-being, it is considered “stressful”. Stress can result in feelings of exhaustion, fatigue, and
depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes,
insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Stress can also affect work
performance and relationships.

The Fight or Flight Response:

Stress is related to a primitive system in our body called the “fight or flight” response. It is called this
because it provides the strength and energy to either fight or run away from danger. The changes that
occur when this system is activated include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure (to get more
blood to the muscles, brain and heart), faster breathing (to take in more oxygen), tensing of muscles
(preparation for actions like running), increased mental alertness and sensitivity of sense organs (to
assess the situation and act quickly), increased blood flow to the brain, heart and muscles (the organs
that are most important in dealing with danger) and less blood to the skin, digestive tract, kidneys and
liver (where it is least needed in times of crisis). In addition, there is an increase in blood sugar, fats
and cholesterol (for extra energy) and a rise in platelets and blood clotting factors (to prevent
hemorrhage in case of injury). Although this system was adaptive in the past (for hunting), it is not
always beneficial in today'd modern society. In fact, when this system is turned on for long periods of
time it can have harmful effects on the body (e.g., decreased immune function, heart disease).

Common sources of STRESS:

Below are listed potential external (things outside of you) and internal (things within you) sources of
stress. While reviewing this list ask yourself if any of these are sources of stress for you.

External stressors include:

 Physical environment: noise, bright lights, heat, confined spaces.


 Social (interaction with people): rudeness, bossiness or aggressiveness on the part of
someone else.
 Organizational: rules, regulations, "red tape," deadlines.
 Major life events: death of a relative, lost job, promotion, new baby.
 Daily hassles: commuting, misplacing keys, mechanical breakdowns.

Internal stressors include:

 Lifestyle choices: caffeine, not enough sleep, overloaded schedule, unhealthy diet.
 Negative self-talk: pessimistic thinking, self-criticism, over-analyzing.
 Mind traps: unrealistic expectations, taking things personally, all-or-nothing thinking,
exaggerating, and rigid thinking.
 Stressful personality traits: The perfectionist, workaholic, have to please others.

Ways to decrease STRESS:


Now that you know more about stress and the negative effects it can have, the next thing to do is to
discover ways that you can decrease stress in your life. Here are a few suggestions:

Change lifestyle habits:

 Decrease caffeine intake (coffee, tea, colas, chocolate).


 Maintain a well-balanced diet
 Decrease consumption of junk food
 Eat slowly
 Regular exercise (at least 30 minutes, three times per week).
 Adequate sleep (figure out what you need, and then get it).
 Time-outs and Leisure time (do something for you everyday).
 Relaxation exercises (e.g., breathing practice, imagery).

Change stressful situations and how you approach them:

 Time and money management.


 Assertiveness (rather than avoidance or aggressiveness).
 Learn appropriate use of problem-solving coping skills

Change your thinking:

 Realistic Expectations (when expectations are more realistic, life seems more manageable)
 Keep a sense of humor. It’s important to be able to see the humor in the things we sometimes
say and do.
 Have a support system (speak with someone or write down your thoughts)
 Reframe negative thoughts so that you focus on the positive (half full vs. half empty)
 Challenge catastrophic thinking using cognitive restructuring
Stress at work is a relatively new phenomenon of modern lifestyles. The nature of
work has gone through drastic changes over the last century and it is still changing
at whirlwind speed. They have touched almost all professions, starting from an artist
to a surgeon, or a commercial pilot to a sales executive. With change comes stress,
inevitably. Professional stress or job stress poses a threat to physical health. Work
related stress in the life of organized workers, consequently, affects the health of
organizations.

What's It?
Job stress is a chronic disease caused by conditions in the workplace that negatively
affect an individual's performance and/or overall well-being of his body and mind.
One or more of a host of physical and mental illnesses manifests job stress. In some
cases, job stress can be disabling. In chronic cases a psychiatric consultation is
usually required to validate the reason and degree of work related stress.

Working on a project on stress at work, Andy Ellis, Ruskin College, Oxford, UK, has
shown in a chart how stress can adversely affect an employee's performance. In the
early stages job stress can 'rev up' the body and enhance performance in the
workplace, thus the term 'I perform better under pressure'. However, if this
condition is allowed to go unchecked and the body is revved up further, the
performance ultimately declines and the person's health degenerates.

The signs of job stress vary from person to person, depending on the particular
situation, how long the individual has been subjected to the stressors, and the
intensity of the stress itself. Typical symptoms of job stress can be:
• Insomnia
• Loss of mental concentration,
• Anxiety, stress
• Absenteeism
• Depression,
• Substance abuse,
• Extreme anger and frustration,
• Family conflict
• Physical illnesses such as heart disease, migraine, headaches, stomach problems,
and back problems.
Top

Job stress may be caused by a complex set of reasons. Some of the most visible
causes of workplace stress are:

Job Insecurity
Organized workplaces are going through metamorphic changes under intense
economic transformations and consequent pressures. Reorganizations, takeovers,
mergers, downsizing and other changes have become major stressors for employees,
as companies try to live up to the competition to survive. These reformations have
put demand on everyone, from a CEO to a mere executive.

High Demand for Performance


Unrealistic expectations, especially in the time of corporate reorganizations, which,
sometimes, puts unhealthy and unreasonable pressures on the employee, can be a
tremendous source of stress and suffering. Increased workload, extremely long work
hours and intense pressure to perform at peak levels all the time for the same pay,
can actually leave an employees physically and emotionally drained. Excessive travel
and too much time away from family also contribute to an employee's stressors.
Top
Technology
The expansion of technology—computers, pagers, cell phones, fax machines and the
Internet—has resulted in heightened expectations for productivity, speed and
efficiency, increasing pressure on the individual worker to constantly operate at peak
performance levels. Workers working with heavy machinery are under constant
stress to remain alert. In this case both the worker and their family members live
under constant mental stress. There is also the constant pressure to keep up with
technological breakthroughs and improvisations, forcing employees to learn new
software all the times.

Workplace Culture
Adjusting to the workplace culture, whether in a new company or not, can be
intensely stressful. Making oneself adapt to the various aspects of workplace culture
such as communication patterns, hierarchy, dress code if any, workspace and most
importantly working and behavioral patterns of the boss as well as the co-workers,
can be a lesson of life. Maladjustment to workplace cultures may lead to subtle
conflicts with colleagues or even with superiors. In many cases office politics or
gossips can be major stress inducers.

Personal or Family Problems


Employees going through personal or family problems tend to carry their worries and
anxieties to the workplace. When one is in a depressed mood, his unfocused
attention or lack of motivation affects his ability to carry out job responsibilities.

Job Stress and Women


Women may suffer from mental and physical harassment at workplaces, apart from
the common job stress. Sexual harassment in workplace has been a major source of
worry for women, since long. Women may suffer from tremendous stress such as
'hostile work environment harassment', which is defined in legal terms as 'offensive
or intimidating behavior in the workplace'. This can consist of unwelcome verbal or
physical conduct. These can be a constant source of tension for women in job
sectors. Also, subtle discriminations at workplaces, family pressure and societal
demands add to these stress factors.
Top
Because change is constant in life, stress is an integral part of it. Since we don't
want to perish under it, we have to adhere to the bottom line for survival—adapt.

Following are some of the long-term tips to survive stress:


• Even if we feel secured in a habituated life, the truth remains that changing with
the times makes one's position more secure. In today's business climate, you must
continually be prepared for changes to avoid stress and survive in the competitive
world.

• Find and protect whatever time you get to refresh, re-energize and re-motivate
yourself. Spend quality time with your family. This can be an excellent source of
emotional and moral support.

• Avoid giving in to alcohol, smoking and other substance abuses while under
constant stress.

• Develop positive attitudes towards stressful situations in life. Give up negative


mental traits such as fear, anger and revengeful attitudes, which actually germinate
stress. Try to revert to holistic relaxation and personal growth techniques such as
meditation, breathing and exercises, to remodel your lifestyles.

• In case of chronic stress consult a health professional.


• Reduce workplace stress by celebrating your's or your colleagues'
accomplishments.
• Adapting to demands of stress also means changing your personality. Improve
your line of communication, efficiency and learn from other's experiences.

• Don't be complacent. Be prepared for any change physically, emotionally and


financially.

But, when you are under stress at work, some simple practices can help:
• Sit straight and comfortably on your seat, and try breathing exercises. It will relax
your nerves and muscles.

• Relax and count backwards (20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15….)

• Try creative visualization


Top

When under severe stress, an individual fails to take clear-cut decisions, reevaluate
and reassess the priorities and lifestyles, and ultimately, tend to fall into
unproductive distractions. This can be described as a classic case of 'burnout'. The
'burnouts' often engage in reckless or risk-taking behaviors. Starting from glamor
and sport celebrities to common men, 'burnouts' are found everywhere.

Chronic Responsibility Syndrome is a kind of burnout where people get mentally and
physically exhausted from their workload. The symptom is often described as
"there's simply too much work to do, and no one else can do it but me". Typically it
will occur in hard working, hard driven people, who become emotionally,
psychologically or physically exhausted. You are at risk of burnout where:

• you find it difficult to say 'no' to additional commitments or responsibilities

• you have been under intense and sustained pressure for some time

• your high standards make it difficult to delegate to assistants

• you have been trying to achieve too much for too long

• you have been giving too much emotional support for too long
Often burnout will manifest itself in a reduction in motivation, volume and quality of
performance, or in dissatisfaction with or departure from the activity altogether.
Top
Are You in Danger of Burning Out?
If you feel that you are in danger of burning out, the suggestions below can help you
correct the situation:

• Re-evaluate your goals and prioritize them

• Evaluate the demands placed on you and see how they fit in with your goals

• Identify your ability to comfortably meet these demands.

• If people demand too much emotional energy, become more unapproachable and
less sympathetic. Involve other people in a supportive role. Acknowledge your own
humanity: remember that you have a right to pleasure and a right to relaxation

• Learn stress management skills

• Identify stressors in your life, such as work, or family. Get the support of your
friends, family and even counseling in reducing stress

• Ensure that you are following a healthy lifestyle:

1. Get adequate sleep and rest to maintain your energy levels

2. Ensure that you are eating a healthy, balanced diet—bad diet can make you ill or
feel bad. Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake

3. Try to recognize your spiritual needs that may have been buried under the mires
of worldly pursuits

• Develop alternative activities such as a relaxing hobby to take your mind off
problems

Have You Burned Out?


• If you are so de-motivated that for a time you do not want to continue with what
you do, then take some time off
• Alternatively, try to switch to another area of activity within your organization. If
you come back later, you may find that you have started to enjoy the work again,
and can take on only those commitments that you want. You may, however, find
that you have absolutely no interest in continuing with what you are doing. In this
case it may be best to drop it altogether

• Take support and counseling of near and dear ones to bring change to the current
situation

• Enroll yourself with some meditation or yoga classes (to ensure group spiritual
practice), gyms, aerobics or sports clubs to switch your focus, and to reorganize your
priorities

• If you are in late stages of burnout, feeling deeply de-motivated and disenchanted
with your job or life, get help from a good psychologist