Page 19 - Inside pages

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The kids are screaming, the bills are due and
the pile of papers on your desk is growing at
an alarming pace. It’s undeniable - life is full
of stress. Understanding the types and sources
of stress - short term and long term, internal
and external - is an important part of stress
management. So what stresses you out?
Two main types of stress
Stress is your body’s reaction to the demands
of the world. Stressors are events or conditions
in your surroundings that may trigger stress.
Your body responds to stressors differently
depending on whether the stressor is new
acute stress or whether the stressor has been
around for a longer time chronic stress.
Acute stress
Also known as the fight-or-flight response,
acute stress is your body’s immediate
reaction to a perceived threat, challenge
or scare. The acute-stress response is
immediate and intense, and in certain
circumstances it can be thrilling. Examples
of acute stressors include having a job
interview or getting a speeding ticket.
A single episode of acute stress generally
doesn’t cause problems for healthy people.
However, severe acute stress can cause
mental health problems, such as post-
traumatic stress disorder, and even physical
difficulties such as a heart attack.
Chronic stress
Mild acute stress can actually be beneficial
- it can spur you into action, motivate
and energize you. The problem occurs
when stressors pile up and stick around.
This persistent stress can lead to health
problems, such as headaches and insomnia.
The chronic-stress response is more subtle
than is the acute-stress response, but the
effects may be longer lasting and more
Effective stress management involves
identifying and managing both acute and
chronic stress.
Know your stressors
Effective stress management starts with
identifying your sources of stress and
developing strategies to manage them. One
way to do this is to make a list of the situations,
concerns or challenges that trigger your stress
response. Take a moment to write down the
top 10 issues you’re facing right now. You’ll
notice that some of your stressors are events
that happen to you while others seem to
originate from within.
External exasperations
External stressors are events and situations
that happen to you. Some examples of external
stressors include:
• Major life changes.
These changes can
be positive - a new marriage, a planned
pregnancy, a promotion or a new house. Or
they can be negative - the death of a loved
one or a divorce.
• Environment.
The input from the world
around us can be a source of stress.
Consider how you react to noises, such as
a barking dog, or to too much or too little
light in a room.
• Unpredictable events.
Out of the blue,
uninvited houseguests arrive. Or you
discover your rent has gone up or that your
pay has been cut.
• Workplace.
Common stressors at work
include an impossible workload, endless
emails, urgent deadlines and a demanding
• Social.
Meeting new people can be stressful.
Just think about going on a blind date and
you probably start to sweat. Relationships
with family often spawn stress as well.
Just think back to your last spat with your
partner or child.
Strategies to manage external stressors include
lifestyle factors such as eating a healthy diet,
being physically active and getting enough
sleep - which help boost your resiliency. Other
helpful steps include asking for help from
others, using humor, learning to be assertive,
and practicing problem-solving and time
Internal irritations
Not all stress stems from things that happen
to you. Much of our stress response is self-
induced. Those feelings and thoughts that
pop into your head and cause you unrest
are known as internal stressors. Examples of
internal stressors include:
• Fears.
Common ones include fear of failure,
fear of public speaking and fear of flying.
• Uncertainty and lack of control.
people enjoy not knowing or not being able
to control what might happen. Think about
how you might react when waiting for the
results of a medical test.
• Beliefs.
These might be attitudes, opinions
or expectations. You may not even
think about how your beliefs shape your
experience, but these preset thoughts
often set us up for stress. Consider the
expectations you put on yourself to create
a perfect holiday celebration or advance up
the career ladder.
The good news is that we have the ability to
control our thoughts. The bad news is that our
fears, attitudes and expectations have been
our companions for a long time and it often
takes some effort to change them. Strategies to
manage internal stressors include reframing
your thoughts, challenging negative thoughts,
using relaxation techniques, and talking with a
trusted friend or counselor.
Take the first step
Recognizing a problem is the first step
toward solving it. By beginning to identify
and understand the sources of your stress,
you’ve taken the first step in learning to better
manage it. Manage it, not eliminate it. Stress is
a fact of life. And that’s OK. You can learn ways
to handle it.
Oct/Nov 2013