While stress is a healthy and natural survival response that keeps us alert, energised and motivated, it’s spun wildly out of control and, frankly, it’s killing our minds, bodies and souls. But it needn’t be this way. Did you know you have a lot more control over how it affects you? Here’s how:
How the body copes
Stress causes strain on the body.
Our bodies counteract with endorphins and serotonin, which allow us to adapt. The stress doesn’t go away, but the feeling becomes normal. We can only resist and normalise so much stress until a tiny, previously non-stressful incident tips us over the edge. By the time you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated, and the same goes for stress. You need to catch it early.
The psychology of stress
Stress can’t be managed by telling someone to “just calm down,” but it can be managed in the mind. Something is stressful because you think it is. It’s a matter of perception. Different people find different things stressful. Take a step back and see if it’s actually worth a stress response.
If you look at it from another angle, is it still as stressful as it first seemed? Next, evaluate if it’s positive or negative stress. Positive stress will make you feel energised, motivated and challenged; negative stress will make you feel daunted, overwhelmed and unhappy. You can make a situation positive, just by how you perceive it.
Give stress a sucker-punch
- Acknowledge your stress Don’t avoid and deny, or it will only escalate.
- Accept that it exists. You can choose your response and coping mechanism, but you can’t stop stress.
- Uncover the cause. Find the root-cause of your stress and don’t just address the symptoms.
- Change your perception. If you fixate on something, it becomes all you see.
- Keep perspective. You can’t control life and everyone in it, but you can control your reaction.
What’s your coping strategy?
There are lots of symptoms of stress, but only three major coping strategies:
Are you a plan-maker? Do you take action, make decisions and find the root cause of the problem? This is the primary coping mechanism of successful stress managers.
Are you an avoider? Do you avoid situations through denial, blaming others, feeling victimised, and acting out emotionally?
This is a poor coping mechanism. By not addressing the root-cause of stress, it will build to burn out.
Do you seek social support? Do you look to friends, family and mentors for advice, encouragement and support?
This is a very good coping mechanism. Humans are social creatures, so don’t try be a hero/martyr. Reach out for help.