Stress and how to (sort of) Conquer it!
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s natural response to stressors, or situations that the body perceives as dangerous. Also known as the fight or flight response, your body will respond with the following psychological and physiological actions: increased heart rate, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and senses sharpen. These changes allow you to speed up reaction time, enhance focus, and increase strength and stamina to either fight or flee from danger.
Two types of stress
Have you ever heard that stress can actually be beneficial to you? Well, that is true (to an extent)!Stress can help you rise to meet challenges- keeps you on your toes during a presentation, sharpens your concentration, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and your quality of life. Symptoms of stress overload could include (but are not limited to) the following:
Memory problems/inability to concentrate
Depression and/or anxiety
Aches and pains; chest pain and/or rapid heart rate
Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
Anxious thoughts/constant worrying
Moodiness, agitation, irritability, or anger
Nausea, dizziness, diarrhea or constipation
Increase or decrease in both eating or sleeping
Loss of sex drive
Withdrawing from others
Seeing only the negative
Loneliness and isolation
Decrease in immune system function, leading to frequent sickness
Nervous habits (nail biting, hair pulling, pacing)
Do you know your ABC’s?
Action- the situation you are in.
Belief- what we tell ourselves about the situation
Consequence- the emotions that are a consequence of our beliefs of the situation.
For example, you’re stuck in traffic. You automatically think to yourself, “UGH! This is the worst, I’m going to be late!”. Your stress level rises, you can feel your heart beating faster and your patience wearing thin. Using the abc’scan rewire how you think about situations, and ultimately decrease stress when you teach your body how to decipher between real and perceived threat. So, instead of having that stress level rise, you could instead take a few deep breaths, count to 10, and repeat until you feel your breathing and heart rate slow. This takes a potentially stressful situation and decreases it to a manageable level.
So…how do I decrease stress?
There are a few options you can try in order to lessen the strain of stress on your everyday life:
Learn to Prioritize: Understanding the difference in urgency and importance can help you figure out what you should focus on, and what you can wait to do.
-Urgent tasks demand your immediate attention, but whether you actually give them that attention may or may not matter.
-Important tasks matter, and not doing them may have serious consequences.
-Do First: high importance + high urgency
-Do Next: high importance + low urgency
-Do Later: low importance + high urgency
-Don’t Do: low importance + low urgency
Take Control by saying No: One of the most common causes of stress is having too much to do and too little time to do it. Learn to say no to additional and/or unimportant requests that are time-eaters.
Keep a Stress Diary- Note down the date, time, and place of each stressful episode. Note what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt both physically and emotionally. Rate the stress on a scale of 1-10. You can use the diary to track what triggers stress, and give you an idea in how effective you are at coping.