IN a recent study with 62 industrial managers, more than half said that their jobs were the main source of stress in their lives. 56% declared that better management by their superiors would be the most effective method of reducing stress.
It is important to understand that stress is an inevitable part of our life, our existence. Stress can be a source of motivation; it can increase performance and add colour to our life. But too much stress can lead to distress or “burn-out”.
Learning how to cope with stress is truly an art, a skill that one needs to cultivate over time and constantly upgrade to meet the demands of life today.
Although you cannot completely eradicate stress, you can always cope with and make it work for you.
One must also recognise that stress is both positive and negative. The positive aspect would be that it increases strength, energy, alertness and concentration. But on the other hand, if not managed carefully, it can decrease the level of energy, weaken the immune system and cause serious illnesses.
The common disorder seen under stress is tension, migraine headaches, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, muscle tightness, asthma and others.
1. Be realistic – know yourself
You need to know your limitations, your strengths and weaknesses. You may not always be successful, so do not be too disappointed with yourself if you cannot achieve certain objectives in life.
2. Adopt a problem-solving approach
There are usually many ways to get something done, and some simply involve more obstacles than others. Identify your goals, and outline the sequence of action for reaching them with minimal stress. Generate alternatives and evaluate each of them. Then, select the best one possible.
3. Plan your time
Organise your schedule – time for work as well as time for recreation. Setting priorities gives you a good idea of what is important and urgent and which to attend to first. This leaves you with less important and easier tasks to perform at the later part of the day.
4. Limit changes
Do not make too many major changes all at once. Spread them out over a good period of time so that your system has time to recuperate after a major event.
5. Share your problems
Do not keep worries to yourself. Talk to someone and you will feel better after that. Mutual support for each other will help you to cope better.
6. Build a happy family
Make your home a place you like to return to after a day’s work. Spend time to talk to, play with and relax together with your family. Otherwise, strains in family relationships will become an added source of stress.
7. Keep healthy
You cannot enjoy life if your body is always unwell. Have an adequate and balanced diet. Exercise regularly as physical activity relieves the uptight feeling. Have sufficient rest and avoid late nights.
8. Learn to relax
Keep a hobby, do something enjoyable. Have short vacations and go somewhere for a rest. Learn and unwind at the end of the day, and you will sleep better and feel happier.
Anyone can become proficient at learning which of these areas in himself or herself are more sensitive to stress and then monitor them. There are nine areas that can be used as thermometers that can measure an individual’s stress levels.
Experiences that once renewed the individual (weekends, going to the movies or sporting events and visiting friends) not only don’t renew him or her, they often are stressful in themselves.
The individual is easily distracted by inner and outer stimuli to the extent that it’s difficult for him or her to sit still and attend to detailed tasks.
He or she forgets where objects were put, as well as details, deadlines and promises that he or she remembered easily in the past.
The person suffers from insomnia or needs too much sleep. He or she is drowsy much of the time.
The individual is overeating and drinking or has a loss of appetite.
The person’s frustrations tolerance is low, causing impatience and outbursts of anger.
He or she lacks the drive, energy and desire to attend to ordinary tasks and responsibilities.
The individual is “hypo”, meaning he or she feels sad, depressed, helpless or “hyper”, meaning he or she manifests an inappropriate amount of energy, excitement, optimism and happiness.
The person experiences a fight or flight reaction to people. He or she withdraws from or attacks others with irritability, rudeness, sarcasm and hostility.
In learning the steps in controlling and combating the effects of stress, you have learnt to embrace stress positively and in a friendly manner.
Recognising the effect of stress, and not ignoring it will definitely help you to cope and make the best of it. Shunning anxiety and allowing it to incubate or infect you not only damages you from within but also affects your overall performance.
Take the great step to modify your lifestyle and behaviour. The only “vaccination” against becoming infected by future stressors that bring on this “disease” is good physical condition, a balanced diet and prudent exercise. Successfully coping with stress will keep you healthy, happy and productive always.
Rita Krishnan is a psychologist. Her interests include designing and developing stress management programmes for individual or group counselling and potential modelling for mental well-being.
MIM has scheduled a course on Time & Stress Management for March 2004. For more information on this and other programmes, please call MIM Customer Service at 03-21654611, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.mim.edu.
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