Do you feel constantly under pressure? Are your work deadlines taking a toll on you? Do you find yourself being anxious and on edge in your relationship? Do you experience headaches often? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are undergoing stress.
Stress has taken over our lives. The alarming rates of competition, job insecurity, and conflicts at a personal level all give rise to stress. It’s everywhere; in colleges where students are resorting to using a custom research paper writing service in order to keep on top of their stress, in our jobs with so many deadlines hanging over our heads, even in our personal lives. We feel stressed when we have to handle more than we are used to. It is the reaction of our body and mind to the demands placed on us. Stress makes our heart and breathing rates faster. To a certain extent, stress is normal and useful and helps us to react quickly or work hard to meet a deadline.
However, if the stress is prolonged or occurs often, it results in negative effects like upset stomach, back pain, headache and disturbed sleep. It also has an adverse effect on our mood and may hamper our relationships and career. This is when we need to take a step to manage the stress.
The first step – find what is causing your stress
The most important thing you should do when combating stress involves finding the source of stress in your life. This can be done by keeping a stress journal.
Keeping a stress journal entails recording information about the daily stressors you are experiencing in order to analyze and manage them. Here are a few things you would want to record:
- The stressful event you have experience
- Your feelings after the even
- How did you handle the event?
After you have recorded in your journal for a number of days, it’s time to analyze it. For the analysis, look at the different stressful events you have experienced. Highlight those that occur frequently as well as those which are the most unpleasant. Then, appraise how you have felt after these events as well as how you handled them. Your analysis will reveal several problems regarding your handling of these events that need to be fixed. It will be helpful to list these areas separately to work on them later.
Then shift your focus to the stressful events you experienced and list ways in which they can be changed or if your reaction to them can be changed. Finally, analyze the feelings these events arose in you and how did that affect your overall functioning.
Once you have fully identified the common sources of stress in your life and analyzed your pattern of handling them, you can discontinue managing your journal and move onto the next step.
The second step – avoid situations that cause stress
Avoiding all situations that are causing you stress might not be possible, but avoiding some will be. For example, avoid people who stress you out. Limit the time you spend with them. Of course, this can’t be done if it’s a spouse or a family member.
Having too many deadlines and taking on too many roles is a cause of stress. Learn to be assertive and say no. Know your limits and say ‘no’ to taking on more than you can handle.
Take control of your environment. Avoid the traffic-filled route or hire someone to clean the house for you if you find it stressful.
The third step – change the stressful situation
If there is no way to avoid a stressful situation, try to change them and decrease the amount of stress that way. For example, play your favorite music while doing an unpleasant chore like cleaning to make it seem better.
Manage your time better. Poor time management leads to a lot of stress. Planning ahead ensures you are on time on your deadlines and you lose a reason to be stressed.
Express your feelings. Talk it out instead of keeping it inside. If you want some me-time, tell your spouse you want to be by yourself for __ number of minutes and will get back right after that. If something is bothering you, be upfront about it without being rude and express how you feel about it. For example, if your spouse is not throwing out the garbage, a duty he initially assumed, calmly approach him and say ‘I feel stressed when the garbage is still there and I feel like I have one more task to attend to before sleeping.’
Balance it out. Asking someone to change their behavior also involves doing something for them in exchange. Or when you are taking on their duties, you might want to give them one of yours. For example, in the above situation, you can add, ‘When we divided the duties earlier, we had decided you will do it. Do you want to continue doing it or exchange it for another?’
The fourth step – change your reactions
You may not be able to control stressful situations and events, but you can control the way you are reacting to them. Try looking at stressful situations from a positive perspective. For example, if an added responsibility at work stresses you out, think of how it will add to your learning and you can add an extra set of skill experience to your resume.
Take out your binoculars. The situations cause us stress because we are looking at merely the present scenario. However, if we zoom out and see the whole picture, it might not seem as bad. Think of how much this event is important? Will it matter in a month or a year? Is it worth wasting your time over? For example, this might be applicable when a colleague has pointed out your mistake in a monthly review meeting. You feel bad about it and get stressed that it will affect your reputation at work. Thinking about how many people will remember it till the next meeting or how important that colleague’s view is for you should help reduce the stress.
Set lower expectations. When we expect a lot from both ourselves and others, we set ourselves up for failure. Stop demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards.
The fifth step – accept what cannot be changed
Some situations and people are beyond our control. Focusing on these uncontrollable events will only lead to more stress. You need to shift your focus to things you can control instead. For example, if a family member’s behavior often causes you to be angry and your umpteen efforts at changing him/her have proved futile, it would be best to change the way you react to him/her. Don’t give him/her the power to decide your emotions.
Look at difficult situations in a new light. View them as ways to grow and learn.
Humans are fallible and prone to mistakes. Forgive and let go of resentment.
The sixth step – find ways to de-stress
Find strategies that work for you when you are stressed. Some of these may be:
- Playing with a pet
- Writing about things that are bothering you
- Talking to a friend
- Indulging in a hobby
- Going for a walk
- Taking a long, leisurely bath
- Watching a comic video
- Practicing relaxation techniques or yoga
Set aside time for yourself during the day. Indulge in things you enjoy doing.
The seventh step – practice healthy lifestyle choices
Eat a nutritious, balanced diet. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Reduce caffeine, oil, and sugar from your diet. Get enough restful sleep. Drink sufficient water daily to keep yourself hydrated.
This will help you feel better physically and emotionally. Take care of yourself; it’s the number one thing stress hates.
Elkin, A. (2013). Stress management for dummies. John Wiley & Sons.
Romas, J. A., & Sharma, M. (2013). Practical Stress Management: A Comprehensive Workbook. Pearson Higher Ed.
Tol, W. A., Barbui, C., & van Ommeren, M. (2013). Management of acute stress, PTSD, and bereavement: WHO recommendations. JAMA, 310(5), 477-478.
The term “stress” may be considered and felt by an individual when a situation or event is perceived by a person as being overwhelming, beyond their abilities to cope, and threatening to their well-being.
The results of stress can leave individuals feeling exhausted, fatigued, and depressed. Thus, health problems can arise, such as headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Additionally, stress can affect the person in many other ways and areas, including their work, relationships, school performance, social relationships, etc.
Why Does Stress Happen?
Stress is a natural response to a threatening situation, or, at least, something we consider threatening, even if, in reality, it’s not. This is what is called a Fight or Flight Response – when our body goes into hyperarousal, a physiological reaction occurs in response to a perceived attack, harmful event, or threat to our survival.
External Sources of Stress
Physical environment: noises, confined spaces, temperature, comfort
Social: conflict, confrontation, sensitizing
Organizational: changes, transitions, mergers, downsizing, deadlines, regulations, enforcement’s, rules, strict authority
Major life events: promotion, moving into a new home, new baby, death of a relative, wedding, divorce
Daily hassles: mindlessness, commuting, crowds, misplaced things, running errands
Internal Sources of Stress
Negative self-talk: criticalness towards self, over-analyzing, negativity, pessimistic thinking/attitude
Lifestyle: lack of sleep, overloaded schedule, caffeine, unhealthy diet, alcohol, drugs
Personality traits: perfectionism, workaholic, pleaser, difficulty setting healthy boundaries
Cognitive: all or nothing thinking, mind reading, unrealistic expectations, taking things personally, exaggerating, rigid thinking
How to Decrease Stress
- Introduce healthy lifestyle habits (day-by-day)
- Decrease (or eliminate) caffeine (coffee, tea, pop, chocolate)
- Maintain well-balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Decrease consumption of junk food
- Engage in social activities, as well as leisure activities
- Practice relaxation, meditation, yoga
- Make a safe space at home to feel calm in by installing outdoor home security cameras and have a designated room you can go to to relax.
- Enhance money and time management skills
- Learn to be assertive
- Increase coping skills
- Practice effective problem-solving skills
- Change your thinking
- Keep healthy expectations (realistic)
- Enjoy a sense of humor!
- Have a support system around you
Most of us feel the zen-like feeling when we breathe in that breath of fresh air on a cold winter day. Or, relaxing at the beach listening to the waves, or playing in the sand brings us to that care-free state.
Nature helps most people relax. That’s why there are so many wallpapers with pictures of nature out there. That’s also why numerous of apps designed to put you in a relaxed state has sounds of nature built-in. But does these artificial manifestations of natural beauty really help people relax, similar to being in nature in reality?
Here’s a great article verifying the relationship between looking at nature and decreasing stress: Nearby Nature Effect
The holiday season…
Cold weather ✓
2013 coming to an end ✓
Deadlines approaching ✓
More family time ✓
More commitments ✓
Season of giving ✓
…as you know, the list keeps running. Most of our lives encompass some of these things right now. In my practice, I’m finding that there’s an increased level of stress and anxiety in people’s lives. Why does holiday stress happen?
Holiday Season and Stress
Research from the American Heart Association (2004) contends that this time of year there’s an increase in emotional stress about the holidays. Having to interact with family we may, or may not want to associate with, feeling the pressure of having to absorb financial pressures such as purchasing gifts, traveling, and/or entertaining. Also around this time of year, people are more likely to indulge in foods and beverages they may not usually consume. Consequently, if it interrupts normal healthy patterns, feelings of guilt or regret creep in.
5 tips for avoiding holiday stress:
- Pick and choose your holiday activities
- Ask for help
- Say no when necessary
- Everything in moderation
- Set realistic expectations for the season
Try to relax and lower your expectations from yourself and from your family. You may find yourself enjoying holidays more than you expected.
Kloner, R. (2004). The “Merry Christmas Coronary” and “Happy New Year Heart Attack” Phenomenon. American Heart Association. Retrieved from: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/110/25/3744.short
The year was 2005.
I was in my last year of my Bachelor’s program, meticulously spending hours checking my research data and putting the final touches on my thesis defense. Night after night, I found myself ruminating over having to present in front of my professors, not to mention mine in front of my peers. Ever since I could remember, public presentations, regardless of size or length, caused me grief. I mean, not your typical 11th hour jitters, but…blushing, shaking, nauseous stomach, cold sweats – you name it, I had it.
So, the day had come. I was to defend my thesis. Although most of the day felt like a blur, a few moments still stick with me. The first was feedback from one of my peers as we were standing in the halls practicing our scripts. I shared with my friends how nervous I was, feeling unable to control the physical and emotional reactions happening in my body. My friend, Susan*, turned to me and said, “…instead of telling yourself you’re nervous and scared, why don’t you say you’re excited!”. I listening, and thought to myself – “heck, I have nothing to lose!” So, minutes before my hour of fame, I said, “I’m excited”, “I’M excited”, “I’M EXCITED!”. I think after the 3rd excited, I was starting to feel it. The reaction kicked in! Then, before I knew it, I was done.
I think that’s the second part of my memories of my thesis. My accomplishment. I “felt the fear but did it anyway”. There’s no better feeling then working through a tough obstacle. Or, overcoming a fear.
I encourage you to feel inspired, to reach out for help if you need it, and to “feel the fear and do it anyway” (as Susan Jeffers would say).
Ashley J. Kreze
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm. Have you ever practiced Mindfulness? Do you remember to remind yourself daily of the present moment? If your answer is no, or rarely, well, you should; it’s good for you. Mindfulness helps in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It helps you connect with yourself and be in the present moment, which makes you more relaxed and less worried. Additionally, research shows that mindfulness improves self-esteem and builds confidence.
How Mindfulness Improves Self-Esteem
The Institute of Coaching shared a great article about the impact of mindfulness on our confidence and self-esteem. Here is an interesting part of it:
“Mindfulness practice improves self-esteem.
Why would sitting and sensing the present moment improve our self-respect and self-value?
Here’s one way to think about it. Recall that a mindful brain state is one that doesn’t judge. It is simply open and accepting of the present moment. On the other hand, self-esteem is the conclusion one makes in the role of a judge of one’s status and role: “Am I enough? Have I accomplished enough?” It evolved as an essential biological force, ensuring our survival by keeping us ever-vigilant about whether we are meeting the standard set by our tribes, avoiding rejection and being an outcast.
Non-judgmental moments allow us to step off of the self-judging roller coaster, and experience, even for a few breaths, the natural brain-state of what I call “it’s all ok-ness”.
What a lovely place to sit and rest. You may want to become a regular visitor.”
Will you set time to practice mindfulness today?
Pepping, C.A, Donovan, A, and Davis, P.J. (2013) The positive effects of mindfulness on self-esteem. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(5), 376-386.
If you’d like to inquire about mindfulness or self-esteem enhancement in Mississauga at Real Life Counselling, don’t hesitate to call us at 289-231-8479.
I hear my clients struggling with different kinds of problems. Some are shy and have difficulties making new friends, some are constantly getting into conflicts, some are staying in destructive relationships or on the job that’s making them miserable, and some are dreaming about their perfect life without making any move towards it. This is just a teeny-tiny portion of all the different struggles my clients are facing; but every one of them is unique to that person’s life situation. However, one thing stands out as the background issue of almost all of the problems I hear about. It’s fear. Fear of rejection, fear of uncommon, fear of change, fear of failure. Even I myself was struggling with anxiety in public-speaking situations, which you can read about on this link. Additionally, many have no clue how to overcome fears, so it can all get pretty messy.
Once you learn to face your fears and stop running away from them, but instead do the thing despite the fact you’re scared, you’ll transform. You’ll discover there are many great opportunities you’re able to catch, you’ll learn to live the life you want and you’ll discover some awesome parts of yourself you maybe didn’t even know existed. Sounds exciting? I agree. But it needs work and effort.
How to overcome your fears?
The first step is to discover and make yourself aware of your fears. Second, and the most difficult step, is to face your fears. To let yourself feel the fear, and do the thing you’re scared of anyways. Only this way, you can come to the third and final step, and that is overcoming your fears and, with that, transform your life.
This is exactly what Susan Jeffers talks about in her book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. This book contains tons of enlightening ideas and useful techniques that will help you get out of passivity-mode and start working on facing your fears. Additionally, Susan teaches you how to stop negative-thinking patterns and start implementing positive thinking into your daily habits. There is much more to this incredible book, so I recommend you start your transformation by reading it.
If you’d like to inquire about anxiety reduction or relaxation techniques in Mississauga at Real Life Counselling, don’t hesitate to call us at 289-231-8479.
On occasion I see clients who share their struggles with: getting to sleep, staying asleep, or, getting a good night’s sleep. It’s a frustrating issue that can interfere with our everyday tasks and success in what we set for the day, week, future. Often, the problem was with their Sleep Hygiene. Have you ever heard of it?
What is Sleep Hygiene and Why It’s Important?
Sleep Hygiene, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says it is the act of controlling “all behavioral and environmental factors that precede sleep and may interfere with sleep.” Thus, it can sometimes slip out of our control. However, there are scientifically proven ways to get it back to track.
My colleagues at Precision Nutrition have written a great blog about good sleep habits, and I want to share it with you.
In case you haven’t heard, sleep is absolutely crucial to your health. With a few simple strategies, you can get the high-quality, restful sleep your body and your mind deserves.
Sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise when it comes to improving your health, your performance, and your body.
Good sleep helps us stay fresh, lean, strong, mentally focused, and healthy.
Bad sleep slathers on body fat, screws up hormones, ages us faster, increases chronic illnesses, and drains our IQ and mojo.
Fortunately, research also shows that returning to adequate sleep can quickly reduce these risks.
So why leave sleep to chance?
With the strategies outlined in today’s article, you can engineer high quality, restful nights on a regular basis.
They share tons of helpful tips and strategies to help you get some good night sleep and wake up refreshed and ready for the day. I recommend you to take a look.
—> Click here to learn more: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/hacking-sleep
If you’d like to inquire about your sleep hygiene in Mississauga at Real Life Counselling, don’t hesitate to call us at 289-231-8479.