Why Stress Management Is So Important for Your Health
Reducing stress in your everyday life is vital for maintaining your overall health, as it can improve your mood, boost immune function, promote longevity and allow you to be more productive. When you let your stress get the best of you, you put yourself at risk of developing a range of illnesses – from the common cold to severe heart disease. Stress has such a powerful impact on your well being because it is a natural response that is activated in the brain. Let’s examine how this process works, why stress affects you the way it does, and the severe impacts it can have on your health.
Benefits of Stress Management
We are all familiar with stress — it’s a fact of life. With the rapid pace of modern living, it feels increasingly difficult to keep up. Sadly, the negative effects of stress are widespread and growing.
Our stress response is triggered when we are faced with overwhelming demands. The demands can be large or small, but it’s the importance we attach to them that decides their impact. Important pressures we feel incapable of coping with result in stress, and prolonged exposure to these reactions can have an impact on physical, emotional and mental health.
Most of us feel “stressed out” at least once a month, and the majority of visits to doctors, and days off work, are for stress-related problems. But stress also can grow slowly and go unnoticed, or ignored, for years. Lack of time, information and motivation can cause it to build up until something breaks under the pressure.
With this in mind, one of the most important skills we can ever learn is the right way to manage stress. Once the skills are in place, moods become more stable, thoughts become clearer, relationships improve, and the risk of illness diminishes.
It requires a commitment to yourself to take the necessary time and effort to learn new stress management skills. But we should all aim to develop at least one strategy to turn to when we feel our stress levels rising. Remember, relaxation and peace of mind are not reserved only for those with pots of money and masses of free time. They can be yours, too, with a little knowledge and understanding.
There are many effective on-the-spot techniques you can use in the middle of an intensely stressful situation. Practice deep breathing to provide extra oxygen for both physical and emotional well-being. Or take a break to remove yourself from the situation. If necessary, invent an excuse so you can spend a few moments by yourself. You will be able to think more clearly and get in touch with your feelings. Then you can decide what to do to lift the pressure.
To help yourself over the long-term :
- Try to build stress-reducing activities into your life, such as exercise, relaxation and hobbies.
- Eat well and ensure you have sufficient rest and sleep to prepare yourself for the inevitable stresses of life.
- Avoid making self-critical comments.
- Become aware of your own strengths, weaknesses and needs.
- Make it a priority to get plenty of support rather than trying to cope alone.
- Write down your thoughts so they begin to make sense. Decide on priorities and look for solutions.
- Think creatively — what might another person do in your situation?
- Delegate, share responsibility, and renegotiate deadlines. Often those around you won’t realize how overloaded you’re feeling.
- Prepare for events as much as possible in advance, but don’t try to be perfect, or expect other people and events to be perfect.
- Always seek expert advice when you experience severe physical and emotional symptoms.
Your reactions to an event determine its impact, so it’s always possible to reduce the level of pressure you feel. By knowing yourself well enough to tell when you’re under stress, you can take action as soon as possible.
The time and effort you spend relaxing and learning new stress management skills is always well-spent because of the emotional and physical health benefits it brings. If you are willing to make a change in just one area, let it be an increase in the time you spend relaxing. This is the foundation upon which all the other stress management techniques are built. Without stopping for a moment, we can’t assess our current situation and gain an insight into how we’re being affected, and what needs to change.
||What is Stress?
Perhaps the first thing to say is that, unlike pressure, stress is never good for you and never a positive thing. Stress creates unhealthy biological reactions, and prolonged stress can lead to both physical and mental health breakdown.
The HSE define stress as "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them"
Raymond & Wilson define stress as "a mental and/or physical response, by an individual, to an inappropriate level of pressure whether real or perceived"
Lazarus defines stress as "a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that the demands placed on them exceed the resources the individual has available".
What is the Difference between Stress and Pressure?
Based on Lazarus's definition, while you perceive you have the ability and resources (internal and external) to cope with the demands placed on you, you are subject to pressure and not stress.
Perhaps this is why so many people talk of positive stress, when really they mean positive pressure.
Is Stress an Illness?
No, stress in itself is not an illness.
It is a response / reaction to excessive or prolonged pressure / challenges and this can cause mental and / or physical ill health.
Is stress always bad?
Some stress isn’t a bad thing. It might give us the energy to finish a work project, for example. But too much stress is hard on our bodies. It can cause physical problems like headaches, stomach problems and sleep problems. It affects the way our bodies fight infections like a cold or the flu. We’re also more likely to get sick when we’re stressed. Sometimes stress can make health problems worse.
Too much stress is also bad for our mental health. It can leave us feeling tired, irritable, depressed and overwhelmed. It affects our ability to think, concentrate and react. Too much stress may even be a factor in our risk of developing a mental disorder, or having a relapse.
Causes of Stress ?
A lot of things can cause stress. You may feel stress when you go on a job interview, take a test, or run a race. These kinds of short-term stress are normal. Long-term (chronic) stress is caused by stressful situations or events that last over a long period of time, like problems at work or conflicts in your family. Over time, chronic stress can lead to severe health problems.
Personal problems that can cause stress
- Your health, especially if you have a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis
- Emotional problems, such as anger you can't express, depression, grief, guilt, or low self-esteem
- Your relationships, such as having problems with your relationships or feeling a lack of friendships or support in your life
- Major life changes, such as dealing with the death of a parent or spouse, losing your job, getting married, or moving to a new city
- Stress in your family, such as having a child, teen, or other family member who is under stress, or being a caregiver to a family member who is elderly or who has health problems
- Conflicts with your beliefs and values. For example, you may value family life, but you may not be able to spend as much time with your family as you want.
What can happen if you become over-stressed ?
Problems are your teachers in business and in life. Some people don’t like admitting they have problems and others don’t like hearing about it but, eventually all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment and know that everything happens for a reason. Remember, there are two types of pain in this world: pain that hurts you (physical) and pain that changes you.
Before you assume the causes of the problems learn about them, before you make a judgement understand them, and before you say anything, think about them. It’s not the problems that will hold you back, it will be the way you think about it and react to it.
You all have problems and some of them will reach a crisis point. See this post for some thoughts about becoming a better problem solver and crisis manager, “Problems overcome prevent a crisis”. Slow down, take time to think, reflect and plan the best fix. Looking at problems, crisis and failures you should recognise you have all failures at some time and to some extent, but how you recover is what’s important. The first thing to do is to analyse the problem properly. Don’t over-react by thinking it is one thing then discovering it’s actually something different.
As a bonus good problem solving gives you more peace of mind. It comes as a direct result of knowing you are in control and problems are bring solved. If you become over-stressed you may have unwanted consequences for your health, both physical and psychological. Some of these may include:
- Feeling hostile, angry, or irritable.
- Feeling anxious.
- Avoiding other people.
- Feeling frustrated with things that normally don’t bother you.
- Low self-esteem.
- Lack of confidence.
- Anxiety attacks.
- Depression or sadness.
- Upset stomach, diarrhoea or indigestion.
- Inability to sleep.
- Eating too much or too little.
- Raised heart-rate.
- Smoking and alcohol.
If you are experiencing any of these problems you may want to talk to your local doctor.