Life can be overwhelming, exhausting, and stressful. Whether you’re a busy person or not, you can learn tools that help you to understand and manage stress.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is a natural response your body uses to motivate you to meet the demands of life. You might be surprised to know that it can actually improve your performance initially, but it can also get too much and can start to affect your concentration and drain your energy. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. However, when it affects your quality of life, causes sleep deprivation, or burns you out, then it might be time to do something about it.
WHAT ARE SOME SYMPTOMS OF STRESS?
Our bodies tense up when we're stressed. That sustained muscle tension can bring on a headache.
Our jaw muscles tense as our body prepares to engage with whatever is triggering stress. This comes from our instinct to bite.
Muscles throughout our body tense as our body prepares to engage with a stressful task.
Sound familiar? Take an assessment now to find out if you're experiencing high stress.
Stress is brought on by the many demands of life such as work, study, major life changes, or financial or relationship issues. Stress often becomes a problem when these demands pile up, and you feel you can’t cope.
The way you think about things can also contribute to your stress level. For example, you might think “I don’t have enough time to meet my deadlines.” That can trigger stress and affect your ability to concentrate and do your best work.
There are also physical factors that contribute to stress, such as hormonal changes, an unhealthy diet or a lack of exercise or sleep. It can become a never-ending cycle too – if you’re stressed, you may skip healthy food and get takeaways instead, or be too busy to exercise, or have trouble sleeping. We’ve all been there – you're definitely not the first to feel like this!
It’s important to make good choices when you’re stressed, so you can calm your body and your mind.
Stress can be useful. As your stress level first starts to increase, your performance actually improves until you reach a peak, and then it starts to decline.
For example, if you’re having a busy day at work but you’re managing things, then your body can feel stressed enough to help you to do everything you need. But if someone then comes to you with something urgent that you need to do on top of everything else, that can send your stress levels overboard. You might struggle to concentrate on one thing at a time, and the quality of your work may decline.
You’re not a robot, and sometimes having a whole lot of different demands and expectations can become too much. It’s important to learn to manage your stress levels so you don’t cross your threshold and end up feeling overwhelmed.
One of the best things you can do is to simply listen to someone and let them vent. If you’ve ever felt stress yourself, you might know that you can often feel better when you just let it all out! It might help to do this over a relaxing activity, such as going for a walk in the bush.
You could also suggest writing a to-do list together – it can help that person to see those things on paper rather than in their own mind. Some of the things on that list will be more important or urgent than others, and together you can come up with a plan for how and when they’ll get them done. If you’re feeling generous, you could even offer to do some of their tasks for them.
If they're really struggling, you can support them in seeking professional help. You could find a therapist, or go with them to see their GP.