Coping with Stress

Stress is part of life. Antibiotics can’t touch it. The microscope can’t spot it. It is rapidly spreading and almost everybody’s feeling the effect. A death in the family, the birth of a baby, moving, taking a vacation, getting a job promotion, arguing … all of these common occurrences are stressful. Since stress cannot be excised from the life experience, it is very important to learn how to deal with it.

Although we all talk about stress, it often is not clear what stress is really about. It seems that stress is the “hot” word these days. Most people seem to agree that these are high-pressure times. Employees complain of being burned out, used up or overloaded. Many of us are just plain tired, tired of ever going change, sick of ambiguity and uncertainty. We just wish that change would go way, or at least slow down. When it does not, we look round for someone to blame or for someone we feel should be responsible for causing of stress.

Research shows that everyone sees situations differently and each person has different coping skills. It is not necessarily the nature of the stressor that drives people to dizzying heights of fist-clenching, jaw-grinding, cold-sweating states of stress and panic. The key factor is one’s response to a stressful situation. Different people respond differently to stressors. One person may calmly face moving day, while another person (in the exact same situation) might be totally wiped out by the stress that moving induces. So the ability to manage the stressors that bombard us daily is of the utmost importance

Also not all situations that are labelled “stressful” are negative. Being promoted, changing careers or moving to a new office or home may not be perceived as threatening.

However, we may feel that situations are stressful because we are not fully prepared to deal with them

Some situations in life are stress provoking but it is our thoughts about situations that determine whether they are a problem or not to us.

However, there is one area experts feel will usually cause negative stress and that lack of control over one’s job or workplace. This is the leading cause of stress more than hours of work or ones responsibility on the job.

Stress manifests itself physically. When facing a stressor, your body responds by switching into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Physiologically, your body is ready to deal with the perceived danger (the stressor). Your blood pressure goes up; heart and respiration rate increases, and hormones such as adrenaline are released. The muscles become tensed (some people clench their jaw); headaches, back pain, stomach aches (ulcers become exacerbated), bad skin and the inability to concentrate may plague your day. Your extremities become cold as blood is kept in the central part of the body. The immune system is weakened (since your body is concentrating on dealing with the stressor) and you become very susceptible to colds, flues, cold sores, cankers, etc. Stress erodes away sexual function also. Evidently stress is a very real, and potentially uncomfortable component of life.

In recent surveys, Statistics Canada reported that from 1992 to 1998, the proportion of Canadian women who felt severe time stress rose from 16% to 21%, while for men; it climbed from 12% to 16%. In the year 2000 it was estimated that 10% of working Canadians, about 1.4 million people, suffer from depression, which is often caused by stress. Harvard University predicted that by 2020, depression would become the biggest source of workdays lost in the developed world.

What is Your Stress Index?

Stress can be difficult to understand. The emotional chaos it causes can make our daily lives miserable. It can also decrease our physical health, sometimes drastically. Strangely, we are not always aware that we are under stress. The habits, attitudes and signs that can alert us to problems may be hard to recognize because they have become so familiar. How high is your Stress Index? Find out by scoring your answers to the questions below.

Do you Frequently: Yes No
Neglect your diet? checkbox checkbox
Try to do everything yourself? checkbox checkbox
Blow up easily? checkbox checkbox
Seek unrealistic goals? checkbox checkbox
Fail to see the humour in situations others find funny? checkbox checkbox
Act rude? checkbox checkbox
Make a “big deal” of everything? checkbox checkbox
Look to other people to make things happen? checkbox checkbox
Have difficult making decisions? checkbox checkbox
Complain you are disorganized? checkbox checkbox
Avoid people whose ideas are different from yours? checkbox checkbox
Keep everything inside? checkbox checkbox
Neglect exercise? checkbox checkbox
Have few supportive relationships checkbox checkbox
Use sleeping pills & tranquiller without a doctor’s approval? checkbox checkbox
Get too little rest? checkbox checkbox
Get angry when you are kept waiting? checkbox checkbox
Ignore stress systems? checkbox checkbox
Put things off until later? checkbox checkbox
Think there is only one right way? checkbox checkbox
Fail to build relaxation time into your day? checkbox checkbox
Gossip? checkbox checkbox
Race through the day? checkbox checkbox
Spend a lot of time complaining about the past? checkbox checkbox
Fail to get a break from noise & crowds? checkbox checkbox
Score 1 for each “YES” answer, 0 for each “NO”
Total your score checkbox checkbox



1-6: There are few hassles in your life. Make sure, though, that you are not trying so hard to avoid problems that you shy away from challenges.

7 – 13: You’ve got your life in fairly good control. Work on the choices and habits that could still be causing you some unnecessary stress in your life. The suggestions in this article nay help.

14 – 20: You’re approaching the danger zone. You may well be suffering stress-related symptoms and your relationships could be strained. Think carefully about choices you’ve made and take relaxation breaks every day.

Above 20: Emergency! You must stop now, re-think how you are living, change your attitudes and pay careful attention to diet, exercise and relaxation.


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