Stress and the hairy mammoth

What Everyone Needs To Know About Stress

Everyone is under stress. But not all stress is the kind that impairs your performance. If it were, there would be no mountaineers or deep-sea divers, people who thrive on stress. The important difference is that they can handle the stress, because they have chosen to take control of the circumstances in which they experience it.

In everyday life, stress usually takes the form of mental or physical tension which you would rather not have. At work, this generally boils down to the pressures to get things done, and at home family, worries can often keep you awake at night. It is when these forces become too great that you can feel out of control, and frequently are. This is because stress affects your ability to think clearly and clouds your judgement.

The need to handle stress

Stress is the natural reaction you have to excessive pressure. The rapid pace of life today, along with increased expectations and time constraints, means that everyone has to tolerate more pressure now than ever before. This means that you can easily get used to living with stress, and strive to meet ever-increasing amounts of work, while at the same time wondering why you do not seem able to get the pleasure out of life that you once did.

Focus on handling stress positively

You are likely to feel stressed when the pressures around you exceed your abilities to cope. In addition, you may not be aware that the discomfort you are feeling is stress. Nor may you realise that if you could correctly identify the signs, you could do something about it. There are two key things that will help you reduce your stress levels considerably. Both these courses of action produce more or less instant feelings of being a bit more more relaxed and having more confidence to take things in your stride.

1. Learn to breathe

When you are stressed, you can often find you feel panicky and not able to think straight. To counteract this, put your feet flat on the floor, rest your hands in your lap, drop your shoulders, shut your eyes, and take a deep breath by inhaling through the nose to a slow count of four, and exhaling through the mouth to a slow count of four.

This gets the oxygen into the brain, helping to clear your mind and enabling you to get back to functioning properly. Do it four times. Start now: one – two – three – four…

2. Learn to embrace the hairy mammoth

However much the mere thought of exercise makes you want to lie down, it is an absolutely guaranteed way to reduce stress. Lethargy breeds lethargy. Taking exercise makes you feel energetic because it helps your body to rid itself of those harmful stress-related hormones. Exercise assists in the production of endorphins which give you a great sense of well-being. You may find it difficult to believe, but once you begin to exercise you will become invigorated by it.

But, being ‘on the go’ all the time is not proper exercise. It has to be the running, cycling, stretching kind to have the right result. Exercise may initially seem a less attractive course of action but you need to realise it is essential to your well-being. If a hairy mammoth came at you, you would engage in exercise without a second thought. Think of everyday stress as your hairy mammoth.

Choose to take charge of yourself

When you adopt a positive approach to your life and work, you change how you view yourself and how you view stressful situations.

By refusing to let negative thoughts dictate how you are going to feel, and therefore behave, you will find yourself with the power to take charge of your life along with the confidence to do so.

It is important to appreciate that you have far more choice over the way you feel than you realise. Believing that you have control over yourself and are able to take charge of most events you are likely to encounter goes a long way to ensuring that you will end up feeling less stressed.

Enjoy the benefits from handling your stress positively

Feeling stressed is an everyday part of life and once you understand its nature, as well as identifying its causes, you can take positive steps to counteract it.

Being able to handle stress positively has wide-ranging benefits:

  • You feel more energetic and enthusiastic about your life and work.
  • You are able to think more clearly and logically.
  • You are less likely to get exhausted or upset.
  • You look and feel better.
  • You are more productive and often more creative.
  • You are more able to keep yourself more relaxed and regenerate your inner reserves.
  • You know there is always something that you can do to help yourself to reduce stress.

Knowing that you can control your stress and that it need not control you is a great relief. It also makes life a great deal more enjoyable and worthwhile. However stressed you are, once you start practising stress-reducing techniques, you will immediately feel the beneficial effects on your life and performance. All it needs is the will to begin.

Kate Keenan
© June 2017

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