Understand the components of stress to overcome it
There are times when stress gives us motivation to accomplish our daily tasks. It provides the adrenaline we need to get jobs done. However, there are times when stress becomes overwhelming and it has a negative impact on our lives. Stress can become so debilitating that it becomes difficult to function. At times like this, stress can lead to other mental and physical health issues. And when that happens we jeopardize our personal safety and the safety of others.
It is important to understand the components of stress. Stress is a normal reaction to situations that are perceived to be challenging. However, it is important to understand that it is our reaction to events and not the events themselves that cause stress. How we react is quite dependent on our resilience and tolerance to stress.
As we age our tolerance to stress is impacted. As our resilience decreases, our tolerance to stress may also decrease, making us more vulnerable to things that never seemed to bother us when we were younger. So as much as we cannot control the events of our lives we can learn to better manage our stress levels.
Recognizing the symptoms of stress is not always easy. Stress tends to manifest itself in our physical and mental well-being. Perhaps it is an increase in headaches, chest pains, a stiff neck or a sore back. Or we may find that we are more prone to anger, more emotional, or experience low self-esteem or even depression. As that happens our behaviours change. Our expectations for ourselves and others increase, there may be an increased use of alcohol, we may tend to isolate ourselves, or we may lose sleep.
The good news is there are some simple tools that can assist in dealing with stress. Here are 6 Rs of stress management you can follow. (Based on work done by the Manitoba Farm and Rural Support Services.)
Be aware of when stress becomes overwhelming and has a negative impact on you.
Do an inventory of your stress and come to an understanding of which stressful items you can control and deal with them. Also learn to accept the things that you cannot control.
Make sure you treat your body responsibly through healthy nutrition, physical and mental activity, enough sleep and taking time to recharge.
Take the time to kick back and enjoy life. Use mindfulness techniques such as breathing exercises, yoga or meditation. And remember to laugh. As they say, laughter is the best medicine.
5. Reach out
Identify your support system. Verbalizing your thoughts and feelings can be helpful. You will find it normalizes and validates the feelings you are experiencing.
Remember that there are resources available, from books to read, to organizations such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, as well as professionals who are trained to help you.
Focus on the present
It is not the experiences of today that create the most stress. Rather, it is reflecting on the past or dreading tomorrow that creates an overwhelming sense of stress. Meeting challenges one at a time is a good approach to stress management. By focusing on today you may be surprised at the renewed energy you have for the day and for an enhanced life for tomorrow.
Gerry Friesen from Signature Mediation for the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association. www.casa-acsa.ca.