It seems that almost every day brings another message of warning about the potential dangers of stress. We are told that stress can be held responsible for a raft of health and well-being problems including high blood pressure, loss of appetite, fatigue, withdrawal, hyperactivity and depression. In addition, we’re advised that under stress we’re more susceptible to infection, accidents, viruses, colds, heart attacks and even cancer. Some people might worry about worrying so much about the effects of stress!
Yet, as Hans Seyle, an early writer in this field has said, ‘Complete freedom from stress is death’. So, we might be stress-conscious and stress-concerned, but are we sufficiently stress-educated? As the quote suggests, some stress may be ‘good’ for you in the sense that it keeps you motivated and performing, but too much stress can tip into being ‘bad’for you.
Some tips for surviving the stress in your life
If you’re feeling like you’re full-time stressed and part-time guilt-ridden then these tips may just be what you need:
One woman, Cleo, speaks about her sense of the ‘good’ stress becoming ‘bad’stress for her when she faced a number of life crises in a matter of months. At 42, she was running from one thing to another and began feeling dizzy and experienced a pounding sensation in her chest. She says, ‘I went to the doctor because I was worried about my heart and my breathing. I was told that my heart is a muscle, not a perpetual-motion machine, and if I continued as I was I’d have some serious health problems. I had already hyperventilated and had some panic attacks. I started doing some mindful breathing and positive visualization to get me through the really stressful times. I learnt I had to devote time and effort to managing my stress.’
Helping yourself to more calm
Learn to recognize the stress messages your body is sending you. Sometimes, we’re so busy doing, we don’t think about our unrealistic schedules and our bodies have to react in order to alert us to the fact we’re in trouble. Whether it’s chronic fatigue, cold sweats, stomach ‘knots’ or ‘butterflies’, dizziness or chest pain, constipation or insomnia, your symptoms are telling you to stop and take note – and then use sound tips to survive your stress.
Try this exercise: Think back over the past month. How many symptoms of stress have you had? Write these out for yourself. By writing them out and seeing them written, you’ll become more conscious of how stress is affecting your life – and you’ll feel more empowered to do something to ensure that you eliminate as much bad stress from your life as possible.
You’ll find more strategies for coping with stress in Stress-Less: Your guide to better living.