You might think that you’re coping admirably with modern day challenges, and that any mood swings or irritability on your part have more to do with the incompetence of others than your own stress levels. You may, of course, be right. But you may also just be under more stress than you realise.
Short-term (acute) stress can keep you awake at night and make you feel irritable and edgy. High stress levels over a long period of time (chronic stress) can cause serious health problems such as high blood pressure, and it can weaken your immune system and make it difficult for your body to fight disease. Stress is linked to health conditions such as depression, heart disease, and asthma.
Experts rate the following events as being the most stressful things that people undergo. If you have experienced some of them in the past year, you could be at risk of developing a range of stress-related problems:
- Death of a spouse, partner or close family member
- Divorce or separation from a spouse or partner
- Injury or severe illness
- Loss of a job or retirement
- Change of job
- Major change in family life, such as marriage or a new baby
- Moving to a new home
- Financial difficulties
- Taking on large debts
- A brush with the law – involving you or a close family member
- Conflict within the family
Take stock of your stress risks. Don’t ignore them. Remember, it is normal to experience stress – we all do – but dealing with it well is the key to good mental and physical health.
What Are Some Ways to Master Stress?
The first step to dealing with stress is to acknowledge it. If you have been through some of the life-changing events above, it may help to know that they are major stressors – factors that cause stress – for everyone. Here are some useful tips that may be helpful in mastering stress:
- Positive thinking: Refocus the negative to be positive and plan some fun.
- Physical activity: Start an individualized program of physical activity. Most experts recommend doing 20 minutes of aerobic activity 3 times per week.
- Nutrition: Plan to eat foods that improve health and well-being. For example, increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat.
- Social support: Make an effort to interact socially with people. Even though you feel stressed, you will be glad to have gone out to meet your friends if only to get your mind off of things.
- Relaxation: Learn about and try using one or more of the many relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, listening to music, or practicing yoga or meditation. One or more should work for you.
- Diversion and distraction: Take a time-out (anything from a short walk to a vacation) to get away from the things that are bothering you. Remember, stress can do severe damage. Serenity can do the opposite!
If these stress management techniques do not work for you, there are professional individuals such as social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists who can help. Scheduling time with one of these mental health professionals is often helpful in learning stress management strategies, including relaxation techniques.
Resources: Australian Corporate Wellness Online Portal: Healthlogix