Sometimes it can be hard to identify when we are experiencing stress. After all, life is demanding
and we often have to cope with a variety of responsibilities. We all expect to experience a certain amount of pressure as part of our normal everyday life. So when it comes to stress, it can be difficult to know how much is too much.
Fortunately there are some easy to spot signs and symptoms which may be a warning that we are taking on too much and being negatively effected by stress. Some of the most common of these include the following:
* Low energy * Depressed mood * Anxiety * Avoiding company * Overeating * Poor sleep * Unexplained aches and pains * Upset stomach * Impatient/angry with those around us * Frequent colds and infections * Regular use of drugs or alcohol
Looking at these symptoms it’s not hard to see how too much stress can have a negative impact on our health and well-being. So how can we bring balance back to our lives and learn to cope better with the stress we experience?
1. Identify the stressors in our life. It can help to reflect on what is effecting us the most. We may think these things are obvious but sometimes it can help to keep a journal of exactly what we experienced during the day and what we find most difficult. This can help us consider whether it is situations, specific people around us or our own thoughts and feelings that are causing the most stress. Identifying these factors can be an important first step to making changes.
2. Learn to say “no”. It may be difficult but when our lives are full we do sometimes have to prioritise what is most important. Understand that everyone has imitations. An important part of caring for and valuing ourselves is recognising when we have reached our limits and when we need to care for our own well-being. Consider how many responsibilities are things that we really “must” do and how many are things we feel you “should” do.
3. Let go of perfection. We all have an ideal picture of how we would like our life to be. But this picture is often based on fantasy and not on the realities we face. It is important to learn how to compromise our ideal image and embrace the value of doing our best, even when this may be less that perfect. After all we can’t control everything in our lives. Accepting we don’t have to be perfect can help us to reduce stress and anxiety.
4. Plan ahead. Being spontaneous is great sometimes, but if we are at a stage in life where we have a lot to cope with it can be invaluable to take some time to anticipate what we are facing in the near future. This can allow us to be realistic about how much we can manage. Consider taking some time to plan the week ahead. What needs to be done? What might present a challenge? How can we deal with potential problems? Thinking ahead can save us from taking on too much and facing the feeling of being overwhelmed and out of control when we can’t cope.
5. Take care of our physical well-being. When we are busy our physical health is often the first thing to be neglected. But keeping physically fit is an important part of ensuring we can cope with the demands of life. This means getting regular exercise, eating well, taking enough time to rest and moderating intake of alcohol.
6. Remember the fun. Sometimes having fun is the very last thing on our mind. When we’re under pressure, our own enjoyment of life can get pushed to the bottom of the list. Remember that taking time out for ourselves, even every now and then gives us a change to recoup the energy we have been spending. Whether it’s chatting with friends, a quiet night in watching something we like or trying a new sport or activity, the important thing is that some time is put aside just to do something fun.
7. Look at the big picture. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that most things we face aren’t “life or death”. How we perform in work, keeping the kids to a certain routine, managing household chores, navigating difficult family relationships – these are all important things, but we need to step back sometimes and look at the bigger picture. Most difficulties will pass in time and it can be helpful to remind ourselves of this. If we feel we are failing at something we need to remember all the things we did do right. This kind of perspective can be helpful in keeping stress levels in proportion to what is happening.
8. Express what we are feeling. Remember how important it is to talk about how we are feeling. Sharing our experiences can be an emotional release and can help us avoid becoming isolated. Whether we reach out to a family member, a trusted friend or a professional counsellor, the important thing is that we give voice to how we feel.
If you are feeling the negative effects of stress remember you’re not alone. We can all feel overwhelmed sometimes. Taking some of these simple steps can help us learn to cope better and improve our physical and psychological well-being.
Have a great week,