A new schedule. Roommates. Kids. Sleepless nights. That annoying cold. A fight with your friend. Deadlines!!! Are you stressing you out? Let's face it, the world is a demanding place. Everyone gets stressed out, but it doesn't have to take over your life. There are ways that you handle what life throws at you.
What is Stress?
Stress is the way your body responds to the demands placed on it. Positive or "good" stress can help you concentrate and focus. In some instances, it actually increases your ability to survive. Your body's response to stress can be hormonal, such as an adrenaline rush. It can also be a rise in blood pressure, blood sugar, or body temperature. These physical reactions can often make you more alert, give you more acute eyesight or greater strength. That's how your body gives you what you need to act. Ideally, your body automatically relaxes after you have handled the situation. Your physical responses normalize and you are able to return to a state of rest. This process allows you to gather physical and emotional energy which helps you deal with changes and challenges in your daily life.
Your physical reaction to stress is the same for positive and negative stress, the difference is that with negative stress your body never returns to the "pre-stress" relaxed state. You remain tense or anxious which drains you of emotional and physical energy.
What is Burnout?
When you feel unable to cope with the constant stress in your life, you've got burnout.
You may notice some of the following symptoms:
- Exhaustion (both mentally and physically)
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Low self-esteem or low spirits
- Frequent illness
If you have trouble...
- Upset stomach
- Frequent fatigue
- Increased heart rate
- Inability to concentrate
- Clenched jaw
- Hunched shoulders
- feel depressed
you may be headed for burnout unless you take steps to manage stress
When feeling stressed out, many people turn to food, drugs, or alcohol. Sugar may give you a quick burst of energy, but just as quickly drains away, leaving you with less energy than when you began. Vitamins and minerals can affect your mood. If you aren't getting enough, you may feel depressed, irritable, nervous or forgetful. Carbohydrates tend to calm people down and fats can leave you sluggish and tired.
Intoxicating substances can actually make stress worse. Drugs like nicotine and caffeine speed your system up. Other drugs, like alcohol, slow things down. Either effect puts additional stress on the body. And that's completely counterproductive to your original objective: relieving negative stress. Abusing alcohol and other drugs often leads to destructive behavior. This can bring new problems with added stress, such as losing a job, destroying a relationship, or getting into a car accident. It's like trying to swim upstream, exerting maximum effort with little progress.
You are unique and managing stress in your life is about finding what works for you. True, stress is inevitable, but you do have options. You can choose how you are going to react to the situation in a way that will serve you in a positive manner. This is your decision and no one else gets the advantage of making this decision for you. One method that can help remind you of this is the SBRC or Stop-Breathe-Reflect-Choose. It only takes about 2 minutes, you can do it anywhere, and it can help you to reduce your negative (and harmful) reactions to stress.
The next time you encounter a stressful situation, try these four easy steps:
- Stop - just for a few seconds stop what you are doing and the continuous flow of negative thoughts about the situation.
- Breathe - take in a deep breath, feeling your abdomen rise and fall, releasing any tension in your body as you exhale.
- Reflect - consider what is really going on. Is the situation a crisis? If so, will worrying and becoming tense help to solve it? Will this situation matter to you in two weeks? Six weeks? What action will really serve you in this particular situation? Is there anything productive that you can do to make the situation better? Make sure to ask yourself rational questions and listen to your rational answers (i.e.. It might seem that getting upset with someone when they have upset you is a rational response. But, really look at the response and consider whether or not that will make the situation better or simply add to your stress level. In general, it will only cause situations to become more stressful when you are not considering all aspects of the situation and their consequences).
Choose - now, make a choice.
You can make a choice about how you are going to react in a positive manner. A choice that serves you. This choice may be different depending on the situation, but through this process you can begin to realize that you have the power to choose your actions in the face of stress. You don't have to immediately become tense, irritable, or upset. You will also recognize that not only does holding onto tension or negative thoughts often make situations worse, but it can also have harmful effects on you. With practice, you can take control of your reactions.