We all develop ways to deal with the stress in our lives. Human tendency is to go with what is comfortable and makes us “feel” better. Such coping mechanisms work only temporarily. In the long term, they don’t do much to change the effect of stress on our physical and mental health. Learning healthy stress management strategies that work is one of the best things you can do.
Stress can affect your body, your thoughts, emotions, and your behavior. If not properly managed, stress can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Stress can even interfere with your ability to store and pull information from memory. It can also make you less productive at work and less useful at home.
Stress overload – Recognising the symptoms
External circumstances such as significant life changes, relationship difficulties, and financial hardship can cause stress. Internal issues resulting from your personality or character can also cause stress – unrealistic expectations, negative self-talk, and being pessimistic about life.
Illness may not be to blame for your aches and pains, the “malaria” that never gets better, your sleepless nights or inability to concentrate at work. Stress may be behind it all. Stress can have a variety of symptoms, which include:
Cognitive symptoms: Emotional symptoms:
Memory and concentration problems Moodiness and irritability
Anxiety, worry, poor judgment Agitation, feeling overwhelmed, depression
Physical symptoms: Behavioural symptoms:
Aches, chest pain, rapid heartbeat Overeating, sleeping too much or too little
Frequent colds, loss of sex drive Using alcohol, drugs or cigarettes to relax
Menstrual irregularity, hair loss Isolating yourself, neglecting responsibilities
Healthy stress management strategies
Unhealthy methods of coping with stress can make things worse. Drinking, smoking, overeating, and lashing out at others, are temporary pleasures that don’t leave you feeling better and can damage your health and relationships.
The Four A’s approach – Avoid, Alter, Adapt, or Accept – is an excellent way to begin to deal with stress. Proper stress management involves reducing stress, preventing it where possible and using healthy coping methods when the stress is unavoidable. You don’t have to fall victim to stress! There is always hope, and there are ways to manage your stress in an effective manner. If managed appropriately, stress can even prompt you to make healthier life choices.
It may not appear so, but you have more control over stress than you might think. It’s important not to cope with stress in ways that make the problem worse. Avoid drinking too much to unwind at the end of a stressful day or stuffing yourself up with unhealthy comfort food. Resist the temptation to zone out for hours in front of the TV or computer, to take your frustration out on others or to use pills to relax. As you can see, there are healthier ways to cope with stress and its symptoms that will benefit you right away and in the long run.
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