Coping With Stress
Longer-term effects Our bodies are designed to be in this alert mode for a short time to get out of danger. But a series of demands, together with a feeling of `not coping' will keep you permanently `on alert'. This will cause wear and tear on your body, because your mind and body will be permanently in the `alert' mode.

When this happens we experience longer term :

Physical symptoms - heart and blood pressure problems, muscle tension, headaches, tiredness, low immunity, nausea / indigestion.

We also may feel and think differently - finding it hard to concentrate, finding decision-making difficult, lacking clear judgement, being depressed, having very negative thoughts, being irritable, losing self-motivation and confidence and having panic attacks.

We, or other people, may notice different behaviour -insomnia, working long hours, taking work home, restlessness, eating problems, and drinking or smoking more.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP YOURSELF?

Recognise and accept that you are experiencing stress. Look at your current demands and current ways of coping with them. One way to do this, is to list the demands - external and internal - that you are currently experiencing, and then the ways you have of managing them. Are these the best ways or are you making things worse ?

Having looked at how you are managing now, decide what is useful, and continue with it, and change what is not useful. First, make some useful practical changes:

A normal physical response to demands and danger
Caused by both external demands and internal demands
A reaction to what you see as the relationship between demands on you and your inability to cope
STRESS is:
External demands come from other people's expectations of us - tasks, roles, deadlines, are all demands, as are the situations we find ourselves in - traffic jams - noise - heat

Internal demands are the rules we make for ourselves - telling ` ourselves we must be - for instance - perfect, nice, quick. or successful.

Demands can feel challenging, exciting, and positive when they feel manageable. They feel manageable when we have sufficient internal resources and external supports to allow us to manage the demands. Feeling that a demand is manageable means that adrenaline is released appropriately in our bodies to allow us to fulfil the demand(s)

Demands become negatively stressful when you have insufficient external supports and internal resources to allow you to manage. You experience stress when you feel you cannot cope with the demands.

Demands are difficult to measure One person's challenge is another person's unmanageable demand. Stress is largely about how you perceive demands and how you perceive yourselves, and your ability to cope.
WHAT IS HAPPENING?
Your heart rate speed up
Your breathing become faster and shallower
Your muscles tense and are ready for movement
Your thoughts are racing - and you are alert and ready for action
In this state, systems not needed (digestive, sexual) are shut down.
Your mind recognises the feeling of being unable to cope, as a danger, and will react to that danger by triggering the `fight or flight' reaction.

This starts by releasing a flood of adrenaline, making :
Agree with somebody sometimes - life should not be a constant battle !
Now, learn some new ways of being that will help rather than hinder you:
Take breaks, and a lunch-break
Eat well - low blood-sugar pre-disposes us to panic, and a poor diet will further lower our immunity
Learn some new ways to release tension - take some exercise - do some relaxation
exercises - go for a regular walk - listen to music - go to the cinema
Work reasonable hours, and get enough sleep.
Make positive changes in your drinking and smoking
Pamper yourself. And make sure you have time - even 5 minutes - every day to do something that is totally for you,
Think about the external demands on you. Are there any over which you have control, and therefore you could make changes ? How are you stopping yourself making changes ? Why ?
Think about the internal demands you put on yourself - Are you expecting yourself to be perfect ? always nice ? quick ? strong ? Sometimes `good enough' is good enough
Establish clear boundaries around what are your responsibilities - 'and stick to them
Learn to say `no' Are you always saying `yes' when sometimes inside you are screaming 'no!' ? What would happen if sometimes you said 'yes' and meant it, or said `no' and meant it ?
Change what you can, and accept what you can't change - rather than constantly fighting what may be non-negotiable.
Delegate - and let go of what you have delegated
Look at how you manage your time.
Learn to prioritise.
Talk to someone about how you feel
Take time to listen
Learn to compromise
Learn to assert yourself
Learn to ask for support
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