Tools to help manage stressful situations
Stress is a normal reaction to competing demands and pressures. The experience of stress can be thought of as a mental or emotional strain or tension.
When a person is a stressed, they may feel angry, irritable, overly sensitive, and anxious and have the urge to withdraw from people. They may be thinking “There’s too much to do”, “I don’t have time to do all this” or “I can’t cope” and a small request from a loved one may be met with irritation. A person may experience physical symptoms such as stomach issues, headaches, muscle aches and pains, or insomnia. The danger with stress is that the impacts often develop slowly, so a person may minimise their situation and not seek help. Instead, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or other unhealthy coping strategies may be used to try and continue to meet demands.
When stress is chronic a person may eventually experience what is referred to as “Burn Out”. Burn out leads to feelings of ineffectiveness, lack of accomplishment, cynicism, detachment, and physical and emotional exhaustion. When a person is severely burnt out, they are no longer able to function personally or professionally and may develop Depression or an Anxiety Disorder.
Symptoms of burnout include; chronic fatigue, insomnia, inability to concentrate or sustain attention, forgetfulness, physical symptoms of anxiety such as shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, loss of enjoyment, isolation, detachment, irritability, and poor performance at work, school, or home.
The impacts of chronic stress or burn out can have serious and prolonged consequences on physical, mental and emotional health. Research suggests that chronic stress has been linked to high blood pressure, type II diabetes, and heart disease.
Types of stress may include:
Pressure to perform, fear of failure, approaching deadlines, poor grades and long hours studying/working can contribute to a student’s stress. Other factors may include, commuting long distances, being away from family and financial stress.
Unexpected illness, financial stress, marital discord, problems with a child’s physical and mental health, and pressures of daily living can contribute to a person stress at home.
Long hours, a heavy workload, constant deadlines, job uncertainty, and poor job performance feedback can contribute to chronic stress at work. Other factors may include, job dissatisfaction, lack of authority to make decisions, not meeting one’s full potential, poor communication in the workplace, relationship problems with superiors at work, and long commutes to name a few.
While it may not be possible to control certain external factors, the way we think, feel and behave can also contribute significantly to our stress, and can be changed.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) helps a person identify and change unhelpful beliefs, assumptions, and appraisals of external situations, as well as unhealthy coping styles to reduce stress. Certain lifestyle changes can also help for example, focusing on our physical health such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercising can help our bodies stay strong and recover from stress.
Follow this link for a helpful handout on how to avoid harmful stress.
Some useful links:
The Black Dog Institute
Website contains a wealth of information on mood disorders and wellbeing strategies
Services, Stress Management