Stress. It’s a word many of us hear – and use – frequently, and it isn’t usually when things are going well.
The interesting thing is, we actually need a certain amount of stress to be at our most effective. The “right” amount of stress will help us to prioritise and handle many situations in the most productive way. It’s when it gets too much that we tend to run into difficulties. But what actually is it?
What is stress?
In straightforward terms, it’s when we feel under too much mental and/or emotional pressure, and as a consequence feel unable to cope. Numerous things can cause it – work demands, relationship issues, money problems, looming deadlines – leading to a degree of feeling overwhelmed and simply unable to deal with whatever challenge is facing us.
Not only does stress affect different people in different ways, but some situations that cause stress in some people can be motivating for others. There is no doubt that it’s a complex topic, often with no ready-made solutions.
What are the effects of stress?
They are several and varied, but can include some or all of the following:
- sleeping problems
- loss of appetite
- difficulty concentrating
- low self-esteem
- muscle tension or pain
Stress also causes the release of the so-called “fight or flight” hormones in our bodies, preparing us to take action. The longer the levels of these hormones are raised, the longer we will feel stressed.
In itself, stress is not an illness, but if it continues unchecked it can lead to serious illness and/or behavioural problems such as drinking too much.
What can be done to minimise stress?
Essentially, it’s about trying to feel calmer about the challenges and getting them in perspective. Quite often the “worst case” is not only extremely unlikely but not all that bad, but it doesn’t always feel that way. So if we can’t always eliminate the original cause of the stress, we can at least try to minimise our reaction to it.
Relaxation, exercise, and time-management can all help – as in so many other areas of leading a healthy life – but one of the best ways to solve any problem is to determine what causes it. With stress this can sometimes be difficult, as there may appear to be multiple causes, so a good starting point is to keep a diary of when you feel stressed, which are known as “stress triggers”. This might help:
- the date, time and place of the stressful episode
- what you were doing
- who you were with
- how you felt emotionally
- what you were thinking
- what you started doing
- how you felt physically
- a stress rating (0-10 where 10 is the most stressed you could ever feel)
You could then use the diary to:
- work out what triggers your stress
- work out how you operate under pressure
- develop better coping mechanisms
Doctors sometimes recommend keeping a stress diary to help them diagnose stress.
The 10 wonderful “stress busters”
NHS choices have a list of 10 things we can do to minimise stress, underpinned by the positive view that there is always a solution to a problem. It will all be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end …
Here they are:
- be active
- take control
- connect with people
- have some “me” time
- challenge yourself
- avoid unhealthy habits
- help other people
- work smarter, not harder
- try to be positive
- accept the things you can’t change
Here’s a link if you would like more detail.
How Vivamus can help with stress management
In addition to our counselling sessions, our team of expert psychologists have developed an application (app) which you can download to your mobile device, enabling you to function at an optimal level of stress.
You will find more details of the app, and how to download it, here.
We are here to help you
All Vivamus Psychologists are registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) and hold a practising certificate through the British Psychological Society (BPS) and are bound by the Society’s code of conduct and ethical principles.
Your complete confidentiality will of course be respected at all times.
In a 2014 survey by the BACP, 69% of people think the world would be a better place if people talked about their feelings more!