Stress: what is it and how can we manage it?
In our increasingly busy and connected lives we can often feel overwhelmed and anxious. The term ‘stressed out’ has become commonplace. But what really is stress, what causes the feeling, and how can we deal with it?
Stress is a human reaction to pressures and demands that are placed on our bodies. Stress in the short term can be a positive motivator encouraging us to take action. Stress can actually allow us to perform better in moderate levels; it makes us more energised and responsive.
But over a prolonged period of time can produce negative effects. It’s when the feeling of constantly being under pressure becomes overwhelming that problems arise, and long-term chronic stress can be seriously detrimental to mental and physical wellbeing. The pace of our modern society with the combined stress of high-pressure jobs, relationship challenges and financial concerns can weigh heavily on us all.
Common causes and symptoms of stress
Things that impact our resilience and wellbeing cause stress, and this is different for everyone. Stress can be influenced by external and internal factors, anything that impacts how we would usually feel about or deal with a situation. Money, health, trauma, work and relationships can all be stressors, but a huge factor in stress is the mismatch between an experience and the resources a person feels they have to cope with it. These responses again can be impacted by personality, cultural background, social circumstances, previous experience and life stage.
Symptoms differ so some common early warning signs are: tiredness, lack of motivation and concentration, anxiety, headaches and changes in eating, drinking and sleeping habits.
Four tips on how to deal with stress
1. Acknowledge stress
The first thing to do is recognise that you are stressed! Try to take yourself out of the situation, both physically and mentally. Being mindful of stress helps to stop overwhelming feelings and clarify that they will pass.
Although we may not feel like exercising when stressed, it releases endorphins that make us feel more positive. Regular exercise can also help us to sleep better, which goes hand in hand with relieving stress.
3. Share your stress
Confide in someone you trust about how you’re feeling, be that a friend, colleague or health professional. Stress can limit you from thinking clearly and by talking things through the answers to your problems may become clearer and more in perspective. Connecting with someone can also combat the isolation you can feel when very stressed.
4. Plan to rest
A common cause of stress is the feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to do it, in both the workplace and your personal life. Even when people find themselves in this position, many will still take on additional plans and responsibility, but why? Learning to say no will force you to identify why this is an issue in the first place, as well as freeing up time to yourself to relax.
Did you know that the pattern for the week established in the The Bible includes a day of rest? This day is also known as the Sabbath. Taking time out helps to put life in perspective, and encourages you and those you love to enjoy life, not just endure it! Have you thought about making a day of rest a regular part of your week?
If you find you’re struggling to free yourself of stress or worrying constantly, why not come along to our Beating Stress service on Sunday 6 May? Wesley Mission's CEO and Superintendent, the Rev Keith Garner will be sharing a special message on the subject, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to feel part of a caring community.