Everybody feels stressed at times. Stress, put simply, involves being placed under some kind of pressure (real or perceived) and believing that we do not have sufficient resources to cope.
That is, the demands of the situation seem to outweigh our abilities to cope with or manage the situation. Usually, the stressor (the thing or situation that has triggered our stress) is something that is imposed on us, such as having to meet a deadline, or getting an unexpected bill, or relationship difficulties. Stress can be short-term (e.g. meeting a deadline on a school assignment) or long term (e.g. living with pain).
Effects of stress
Stress can lead to mood changes, such as increased irritability. It can lead to anxiety and worrying. It can cause physical problems, such as back and neck pain, headaches, upset stomach, chest paints. It can also cause increased blood pressure, poor sleep, and a worsened immune response.
How to manage stress
Identify what your stressors are. Once you can identify why you are feeling stressed, it is easier to either put it into perspective, or take action to manage better. We may also need to re-evaluate what coping resources we have available, as often we are feeling stressed we underestimate the range of options we have available.
Problem-solving techniques can be a useful way of better understanding the problem, brainstorming possible solutions, and then choosing one to action. Some things may be outside of your control, such as stress during exams – you still have to get the exams done, and stress may naturally continue throughout exam time! But you may experience less stress by focusing on what you can control, such as scheduling both study and relaxation time.
Exercise! Exercise is an important part of wellbeing, and a great way to calm yourself and let go of some of the physical tension your stress may have caused.
Eat and sleep well also promote wellbeing and build resiliency to stress.
Take time out for family, friends and enjoyable activities. We can often get consumed with getting things done, but it’s important to have a balance in life. If you find it hard to make time for pleasure and connection, perhaps you need to take deliberate steps to have time out, such as set aside a regular time in the week where you meet up with friends or enjoy a hobby or relax at home.
When our body is under stress, it can be helpful to do activities that help calm and relax us. Learn calming techniques such as controlled breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, to aid your mind and body in becoming more relaxed. These techniques require practice but can be helpful with regular use. Finding what works best for you is an important part of the process.