There's no escaping stress. Every day we're bombarded with images and events that trigger our bodies' natural fight or flight response, and sends our adrenalin soaring. But stress in itself is not negative.
The Goodness of Stress
Without stress, we'd be unable to react to situations quickly, and wouldn't have the stimulation we need to think and act. Stress provides life's zing, and keeps us from being bored.
Every new or unusual situation causes stress to some degree. We can't control that. But we can control how we react to stress and how we think about it. Make stress work for you rather than against you by:
- recognizing stress
- using stress management techniques
- cultivating a positive attitude
The first step in managing stress is to identify the main stressors in your life. Are your main sources of stress external, relating to factors such as your physical environment, workplace, or relationships with others, or internal, relating to factors such as nutrition, your emotional well-being, or the amount of sleep you get?
If you have difficulty identifying the areas of your life that are causing you the most stress, About's Stress Management Guide, Elizabeth Scott, has an excellent collection of Self-Assessment Tools you can use to get a better idea of which factors are most influencing your stress level.
Using Stress Management Techniques
The best way to deal with stressors is to eliminate them. For instance, if you discovered you had an allergy to wool, you would stop wearing it, and your stress would disappear. However, in many cases, eliminating the stressor from your life is impossible. All you can do is reduce the impact by using a stress management technique.
If your stress is situational, the most effective stress management techniques to use are those that you can apply on the spot when you feel yourself becoming tense or anxious. As starting points, choose techniques that you can apply anywhere, such as deep breathing, or a relaxation technique such as guided imagery. Try using a personal mantra, a slogan or positive statement that you've invented, to rechannel your energies.
If your stress is environmental, start managing it by choosing and making one or two small changes to decrease your stress level. Whether the source is external or internal, you'll manage it most successfully if you focus on making only one or two small changes at a time.
Turning Stress Into a Motivator
The effects of stress depend a great deal on how we think of it. For instance, moving into a new house is a very stressful situation. But whether the tension you experience is debilitating or exhilarating will depend on how you view that particular situation. Is it an ordeal or a stimulating challenge?
Turn your stress into a motivator by consciously choosing to view situations in a positive light. Use the stress management technique of positive self-talk to cultivate the positive frame of mind you need to turn stress from a disadvantage to an advantage. After all, stress is what allows us to stay sharp and do our best.
Combat Stress by Recharging
Like allergies, the symptoms of stress you experience will be much worse if you're tired or run down. Combat the negative effects by regularly scheduling and indulging in activities that recharge you, such as going for a walk, playing with your children, or having a long hot bubble bath. Alleviate some of symptoms by paying attention to your nutrition, and making sure you get enough sleep, so you're physically at your best.
Stress Management Related Reading
Homework Assignment: Stress Management
Identify at least one major stressor in your life this week, and start managing the effects of stress by choosing and using two different stress management techniques, so you get a sense of which stress management technique works best for you.
Also choose at least one activity that recharges you, and do it three times this week, for 30 minutes to one hour at a time.
Continue on to Business Success Lesson 9