Coping with Stress

Coping with Stress

Stress is something that is part of normal life, in that it is experienced by everyone from time-to-time. However, some people suffer from stress which is so frequent or so severe that it can seriously impact on their quality of life.

Stress and Stressors

Stress is something that is part of normal life, in that it is experienced by everyone from time-to-time. However, some people suffer from stress which is so frequent or so severe that it can seriously impact on their quality of life. Stress can come from a huge range of sources (stressors), such as:

  • Relationships with others
  • Work-related issues
  • Study demands
  • Coping with illness
  • Life changes, such as marriage, retirement, divorce
  • Day-to-day activities and tasks
  • Positive events, such as organising holidays or parties
  • Juggling many roles or tasks at the same time

Some people are aware of what tends to trigger their stress, and this increases their ability to either prevent stress or to handle it more effectively. Many others are less able to deal with stress, and identifying stressors is a key step in this. If you often experience stress, take some time to consider what tends to set it off for you.

Symptoms of Stress

Some people do not even notice that they are stressed until symptoms begin to occur, including:

  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Worrying or feeling of anxiety
  • Back and neck pain
  • Frequent headaches, minor to migraine
  • Upset stomach
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Changes in appetite
  • Rashes or skin breakouts
  • Chest pains
  • Making existing physical problems worse
  • More susceptible to cold/flu and slower recovery

These symptoms reduce quality of life, and people suffering from stress may notice that work performance or relationships suffer more as a result. You may be able to use some the strategies listed here, or you may find it useful to consult a professional for more help.

Stress management tips

1) Identify your stressors and see if there are some things within your control to manage better. Some things will be beyond your control, for example if you work a job that is based on working towards deadlines then you can’t change this without changing jobs. But perhaps you can control some aspects, such as scheduling to have at least a short lunch break each day, or to go to bed earlier so that you have more energy to cope with the daytime.

2) Build regular exercise into your life – as well as being part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle and giving you more energy, many people find that working out at the gym or playing sport helps them to unwind.

3) Make sure that you eat and sleep well.

4) Problem-solving techniques can be a useful way of clarifying the problem, brainstorming possible solutions, and then choosing one to put into action after listing the pros and cons of each option. See the handout Problem Solving for more details about this.

5) Learn calming techniques such as controlled breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, to train your mind and body to become more relaxed. These techniques require practice but can be helpful with regular use. See handouts Calming Technique and Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

7) Last but definitely not least, consider whether there is negative thinking which is contributing to your stress. Negative thinking can make us worry more than is necessary, increasing stress, and generally does not motivate us to take positive actions. See the handouts Thinking & Feeling, Analysing Your Thinking and Changing Your Thinking.