Maintaining Balance and Wellbeing in Stressful Situations
Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. For some, stress is a motivator lending a sense of urgency to a situation and giving that extra push to get things done. For others, stress is a hinderance, causing mood swings, anger and physical problems. In any case, stress is how our body's respond to various types of demands. Feeling stressed comes as a result of both good experiences and negative or traumatic encounters. As humans we produce chemicals that directly influence our emotions and bodily functions so, when we feel stressed we are actually responding physically to the chemicals released into our bloodstream. This release of chemicals can give us more energy, strength and endurance which can be extremely helpful in critical or dangerous situations. However, when stress comes as a result of something emotional without a way to vent the increased energy and/or strength, it can produce serious physical and mental side effects. Knowing how to interpret stressful situations gives us a huge advantage in handling uncomfortable or demanding scenarios that continually take place throughout our lives. Knowing how to discern the different types of stress and how they can affect us both mentally and physically can help us maintain our overall well being and emotional balance. The more we learn about triggers, reactions and recovery, the healthier we’ll be now and in the future.
Common Causes of Stress
Stress affects everyone and it has nothing to do with age, sex, ethnicity or intelligence. From the time we’re born we start reacting to the things we like and the things we don’t like. Fear, danger, disappointment, worry; they are all part of normal, everyday life-it’s how we handle it that makes the difference. Once you learn to identify the particular type of stress you’re dealing with, you become more equipped to deal with it. Common causes and sources of stress are:
When suddenly threatened or endangered, the body may go into "fight or flight" mode. This is a normal reaction when the life of an animal or person is at stake. Fear forces the body to release adrenalin, allowing us to run, fight or scream when necessary. When we are afraid, our body automatically reacts with a sudden burst of energy enabling us to survive the threat or danger by fighting or successfully fleeing by running away. This is known as survival stress.
Every action begins in the mind. It is also the place where worry originates. Understanding the internal stress caused by worry is important because of the way it can manifest throughout the body. Internal stress is something we may actually do to ourselves by worrying or obsessing over things or people we can't control. For some people, stress can be addictive. They become accustomed to a hurried lifestyle filled with rushing around at the last minute and hasty decisions. Many people who are addicted to stress purposely seek out high stress jobs and situations in search of a constant adrenalin flow.
This type of stress is usually brought on by our surroundings. People who have a hard time being around crowds, noise and/or family can experience pressure and stress especially during holiday time. It would be great if we could simply avoid these “triggers,” however, this is not realistic. If we can learn to address these situations as “temporary” it should lessen the severity of the encounter making it tolerable for the duration. Since environmental stress is usually a short-term occurrence, here are some tips for making the most of uncontrollable situations:
Acknowledge how you feel: Crying and talking with others help us deal with our circumstances openly without fear or shame. For many, keeping a journal and writing about stressful dilemmas or situations can help you find closure by unloading your thoughts and feelings. Writing is an amazing way of venting any pent-up feelings helping you move on.
Reach out for help: Isolation and loneliness can lead to more serious problems. Don’t hesitate to seek out fellowship and community, religious or other social events. Companionship and support are something you can offer others-especially if you’re feeling down and depressed. Helping someone with similar problems is a great, unselfish way to get your thoughts off of yourself. Giving your time could be the greatest way of helping yourself.
Be truthful and realistic: Nobody’s perfect. Take comfort in this. When people know better, they do better. Give yourself realistic goals and take one day at a time. People are always changing and growing- including you. Start giving yourself positive affirmations such as, “stuff like that used to stress me out-now, I just laugh!” You’d be amazed at how the body reacts to positive verbal messages you say out loud!
Don’t fight every war: It may take all the strength you’ve got but once you stop trying to control everyone and everything around you, you’ll stop getting so stressed out. Try setting aside personal differences. Consider accepting certain situations and people as they are and postpone grievances for another time. Try your best to exercise sympathy and empathy by listening to others. Chances are you’ll end up having more things in common than you would have ever guessed.
Stick to your budget: Money has and always will be a source of stress. People have been duped into thinking credit cards are a means of happiness and instant gratification because they let you order things you can’t afford. Easy payments are not easy when you’ve got 20 things to pay for each month. Stress is avoidable when you treat your finances with respect. Before going gift or food shopping, take a look at your budget and control your spending. Good gifts come from the heart. Next time you feel stressed over buying gifts, try some of these alternatives:
- Donate to a charity/plant a tree in someone's name
- Make and give homemade gifts and culinary treats
- Research and document a family tree
- Pass down recipes, letters and pictures
Plan ahead: Most people have routines for weekdays as well as weekends. Whatever your rituals consist of, make time for “you.” So much stress can be avoided by setting aside time for shopping, cooking, baking, kid’s activities, visiting friends and volunteering. If you plan your menus before going shopping you’ll avoid those special trips for last-minute ingredients you forgot. Also, remember that children watch everything you do. Every time you accomplish something without getting stressed out, you’re teaching them the right way to handle everyday life.
No is a complete sentence: Learning to say no is just that-a learning experience. Saying yes when you know better is can really stress a person out. Plus, it has a trickle-down affect. Your fear of letting someone down will make you feel bad and in turn, make everyone around you feel bad. True friends and co-workers know it isn’t realistic for everyone to participate in everything-be honest with yourself first.
Exercise, drink water and eat right: Keep the basics within reach. Carry a bottle of water to prevent dehydration which can make you short-tempered and miserable. Bring an emergency piece of fruit to tide you over during long car rides. Exercise your muscles so toxins are eliminated and stress is released. Get enough sleep. If there’s one thing that can lead to stress it’s being over-tired. Sleep is not a luxury-it’s a necessity. Treat sleep as if your mental and physical well being depended on it, because it does.
Make an appointment…with YOU: A mere 15 minutes spent by yourself will reveal what’s really going on in your thoughts. Quiet time can help you refresh your attitude to the point where you breeze through the rest of the day. Find something that reduces stress like reading, yoga, or nature sounds. Really focus on your breathing; slow it down and fill your lungs with each breath. Other ways to maximize your time alone include:
- Taking a walk out of the office or home
- Listening to relaxing music
- Getting an essential oil foot bath or massage
- Reading or writing a book
Let it go: We humans are prideful when it comes to asking for help. This is because we think it shows weakness when in reality, it shows our humanity. We are not meant to endlessly suffer alone. Seeking help whether it be from friends, clergy or family is what we should do when sadness, depression or stress takes over our lives. Learn to recognize and address your triggers, such as money problems or work issues so you can face life without a meltdown. Arm yourself with information about the different types of stress and take control of your emotions and your life.