Stress is the "wear and tear" our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment. Whether we like it or not, stress is part and parcel of life. It can affect us both physically and emotionally and can create positive or negative feelings.
It's important to note that not all stress is harmful; in fact, we can perform better under mild stress when we know how to manage it. This is called positive stress. Positive stress helps us to concentrate, focus and it can also literally help us to survive. Our physical stress response helps us to meet challenging situations and is an automatic and essential fact of life. Positive stress helps compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective.
Our physical reaction to stress is always the same, but with negative stress, our body stays geared up and doesn’t relax. The over-arousal distresses us and causes performance to decline. This approach to stress is illustrated in the "inverted U" graph. (Fig.1). When stress becomes chronic and ongoing, our physical and emotional health can suffer.
According to the graph, our performance peaks when there is optimal arousal but performance decreases when the arousal level is too high. What is crucial to realise is that each one of us has a different stress requirement for optimal performance.
Stress may affect us physically, mentally, emotionally and behaviourally. The signs and symptoms include:
The causes of stress are coined as stressors. This occurs in two forms: external and internal.
External stressors include major life events such as job loss, loss of a loved one or demands placed by the physical environment such as the excessive lighting or noise.
Internal stressors occur within us. We add internal stressors to our lives for example, if we have unrealistic expectations, negative self talks or choose a lifestyle where there is excessive caffeine and alcohol and constant lack of sleep.
How can we manage stress better? Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many ways of managing it. Here are 7 of them:
The deep breathing exercise is a simple yet effective technique in stress management. It is useful in replacing the rapid, shallow breathing caused by stress with long, deep breaths using all of your lung capacity. This simple exercise, done 1-2 minutes several times a day, may relieve many stressful feelings.
Take in a slow breath into your lungs, through your nose and out through your mouth.
You don’t have to take deeper breath than usual. Just the depth with which you normally breathe.
Slow down your breathing rate gradually. You can do this by breathing in and counting 1 – 2 – 3 before breathing out. You should aim to breathe at a rate of about 12 to 14 breaths in a minute.
Relax the muscles around your neck and your shoulders.
Continue these breathing control exercises for about 5 – 10 minutes or until you are no longer breathless
For more stress management tips, be sure to download a copy of our leaflet for further reading:
Stress Management (English).pdf
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