Everyone needs a certain amount of stress to live well. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning and gives you the vitality and zest to do all sorts of things. Without it, we would have no motivation for many of life’s chores.
Stress becomes a problem – ‘distress’ – when there’s too much or too little. A lack of stress means your body is understimulated, leaving you feeling bored and isolated. In an effort to find stimulation, many people do things that are harmful to themselves (such as taking drugs) or society (for instance, committing a crime).
Too much stress, on the other hand, can result in a range of health problems including headaches, stomach upsets, high blood pressure and even stroke or heart disease. It can also cause feelings of distrust, anger, anxiety and fear, which in turn can destroy relationships at home and at work.
People often feel over-stressed as a result of some event or trigger. This doesn’t have to be negative (such as the death of a loved one, redundancy or divorce); it can also be seemingly positive (a new partner, new job or going on holiday). Such feelings can also be acute (as the result of bereavement or loss of a job) or chronic (coping with long-term unemployment or being in a bad relationship).
In order to cope with their stress, many people look to things that are not only ineffective but also unhealthy. Negative stress-management techniques include:
Denying the problem
Instead of these harmful techniques, why not try one of the following:
Take a nap – 30 to 40 minutes’ downtime will recharge your batteries.
Get a massage – visit a professional massage therapist or ask a friend or partner.
Express yourself artistically – divert your energies into something creative, such as acting, playing an instrument, writing poetry or singing.
Have a laugh – not only will it make you feel better, it will make you look better too.
Be gentle to yourself – we talk to ourselves all the time, even though we’re not aware of it. This ‘self-talk’ determines our attitudes and self-image, so try to change both with a bit of positive chatter.
Meditation, contemplation and relaxation techniques.
Ask most people what makes them stressed and they’ll tell you it’s not having enough hours in the day.
Time is today’s most valuable commodity. We all juggle choices, anxious to please family, workmates and friends – all of whom expect absolute attention to their priorities.
But what are your own priorities? What goals do you want to achieve – and what’s most important to you? Try these tips to help you sort them out:
Determine your mission – set aside time to think and write about your life and goals. Writing such a ‘mission statement’ can help you work out what’s essential to you in life: what you’d like to be and what you’d like to accomplish.
Understand where you spend your time – think about how you could best prioritise and itemise the many pressures in your life. Can you categorise your life in neat ‘important’, ‘quite important’ and ‘unimportant’ boxes? Or would a more complex chart suit your life: ‘urgent and important’, ‘important but not urgent’, ‘urgent but not important’ and ‘neither urgent nor important’ perhaps? Don’t trivialise quiet times, sleep and other seemingly unproductive moments – they’re essential for your health.
Review your roles – a clear set of roles will help you create order and balance in your life. Your roles grow out of and contribute to the fulfilment of your personal mission.
Identify goals – work out a goal in each role for the coming week. These don’t have to be activities; they can be as simple as being more patient with your children.
Organise your week – plan the week ahead using a week-at-a-glance diary or drawing up your own chart. If something prevents you from completing an activity, don’t worry. Just try to fit it in elsewhere or make it the first thing you plan for next week.
Evaluate your week – at the end of the first week, take a realistic look at how it went. What were the big successes? Which scheduling details were less successful? Identify turning points – those times when you consciously decided to prioritise one activity over another. Do your goals need revision?
Enjoy success – no schedule guarantees instant success, but remember you’re in control. Re-evaluate your goals and roles each week, so you can close the gap between what’s most important to you and how you spend your time.