What is Stress?
Stress is your reaction to circumstances, to reality. Stress can be stimulated by events, interpreted by us as either good or bad. Our bodies interpret stress as synonymous with change, i.e. changes in your life, no matter how large or small, cause stress. Believe it or not, even thinking about changes can cause one to stress. In this form it is called worrying. The important thing is to recognise the trigger factors. You can do one of two things – you either change the reality in which you live or change your mind-set to ensure that you cope.
Our minds interpret changes as threats, tell our bodies to run away or get ready to fight. This syndrome is called “Fight or Flight”.
What are some of the symptoms when an individual is overstressed?
Here are some of the indicators which should be taken note of:
- Frequent or long colds or infections.
- Disturbed sleep.
- Loss of interest.
- Tense muscles.
- Skin problems.
- Poor concentration.
Do you know what some of the main causes of stress are?
- Time pressures – have you ever felt that the days aren’t long enough to get everything done?
- Insufficient feedback on Performance Appraisals – Ever worried about how you were performing in your role within an organisation? Well inadequate feedback on your performance can cause you to stress.
- Unrealistic expectations – You want to be a “Winner” and are not willing to accept “Second Place”. Have you looked at your capabilities and skills realistically?
- Lack of goals – we all need direction and to set goals. Without goals we often waste time and don’t achieve outcomes.
- Career changes – either through retrenchment or making the conscious decision to try a new career direction – can make us feel like a rudderless ship with no control over our lives.
- Financial pressures – caused by retrenchment, lack of career planning or lack of sound financial management.
What can you do about changing your mind set?
Now remember the “fight or flight” syndrome is a reaction to change. You need to either change yourself (i.e. your reaction to life, to circumstances) or change your lifestyle.
- Be realistic about your capabilities. It is imperative that you don’t take on more than you are able to cope with.
- Positive affirmation – list your positive accomplishments each day and be proud of what you have achieved.
- Understand what failure means – list the actual consequences of failure not your perception of it.
- Realistic Importance – look at issues realistically, assessing their importance and your role. Don’t over-dramatize your role.
- Physical exercise is one of the best and most natural ways of relieving stress. Exercise at your physical training level for twenty minutes at least three times per week.
- Relaxation techniques are a good way of unwinding at the end of the day or even during the day. These can take the form of meditation or relaxation techniques.
- Visualisation techniques are ideal for handling difficult situations without getting stressed. Just close your eyes and visualise yourself being less stressed.
- Get sufficient rest and sleep.
- Follow a well-balanced diet
By changing yourself and your reaction to circumstances you will be better able to deal with career transitions and the challenge life presents to you from time to time.
But what about our environment?
How can we change that to reduce our stress levels?
- Organise your day efficiently – this is where time management, setting priorities and goals and utilising a “To Do” List will assist you.
- Make sure you take breaks.
- If someone complains, re-state the complaint and acknowledge it. Don’t react first. Stay calm.
- If you are having difficulty solving a problem or your anger is building up due to stress, find someone to talk to. Some call this debriefing. In any event, if you have been faced with a difficult situation and are not dealing with it well, find someone you can trust and talk it through.
- Rotation of work can aid in stress management. So if you have a number of complex jobs to undertake, try and break them up with more easy mundane tasks.
- Above all, don’t be a workaholic. Don’t endeavour to do everything yourself or take on responsibility for everything. You know by doing that, you may be preventing fellow team members from learning new skills or extending their capabilities.
How do we control stress?
Here are some techniques which will assist you:
- Stress Inventory – list everything which causes stress and then discuss it with a trustworthy person who can advise you how best to approach the problem.
- Take control of your life – time management, goal setting, “To Do” lists and learning to say “NO” will all assist here.
- Improve communication with yourself – listen to your inner voice. Make it work for you not against you.
- Look at your expectations – are they realistic? You need to accept that there are some things you can’t change and that you need to change your reaction to them. Concentrate on what can be changed.
- Be more assertive – this is about improving your communication skills, being positive, being able to honestly express your opinion and communicate in a clear and concise manner
- Fitness and Diet – If your body is in shape through a good fitness and diet regime then so will your mind be.
- Adapt to change – Try and see change as a means of growth, a challenge. It is not a threat.