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Stress Management 101

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What is Stress?

Stress is the reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed upon them. It arises when they worry that they can’t cope.

Stress is the “wear and tear” our minds and bodies experience as we attempt to cope with our continually changing environment.

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Stress Feelings

Types of Stressors

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External Stressors

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Physical Environment

Noise
Bright Lights
Heat
Confined Spaces

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Social Interaction

Rudeness
Bossiness
Aggressiveness by others
Bullying

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Organizational

Rules
Regulations
“Red - Tape”
Deadlines

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Major Life Events

Birth
Death
Lost job
Promotion
Marital status change

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Daily Hassles

Commuting
Misplaced keys
Mechanical breakdowns

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Internal Stressors

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Lifestyle choices

Caffeine
Lack of sleep
Overloaded schedule

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Negative Self Talk

Pessimistic thinking
Self criticism
Over analysing

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Mind Traps

Unrealistic expectations
Taking things personally
All or nothing thinking
Exaggeration
Rigid thinking

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Personality traits

Perfectionists
Workaholics

Types of Stress

Negative Stress

It is a contributory factor in minor conditions, such as headaches, digestive problems, skin complaints, insomnia and ulcers.

Excessive, prolonged and unrelieved stress can have a harmful effect on mental, physical and spiritual health.

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Positive Stress

Stress can also have a positive effect, spurring motivation and awareness, providing the stimulation to cope with challenging situations.

Stress also provides the sense of urgency and alertness needed for survival when confronting threatening situations.

The Individual

Everyone is different, with unique perceptions of, and reactions to, events. There is no single level of stress that is optimal for all people. Some are more sensitive owing to experiences in childhood, the influence of teachers, parents and religion etc. Most of the stress we experience is self-generated. How we perceive life - whether an event makes us feel threatened or stimulated, encouraged or discouraged, happy or sad - depends to a large extent on how we perceive ourselves. Self-generated stress is something of a paradox, because so many people think of external causes when they are upset. Recognising that we create most of our own upsets is an important first step towards coping with them.

Alarm Response

This is the “ Fight or Flight” response that prepares the body for immediate action.

Exhaustion

In chronic stress situations, sufferers enter the exhaustion phase: emotional, physical and mental resources suffer heavily, the body experiences ‘ adrenal exhaustion’ leading to decreased stress tolerance, progressive mental and physical exhaustion, illness and collapse.

Symptoms of Stress

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Physical

Sleep pattern changes
Fatigue
Digestion changes
Loss of sexual drive
Headaches
Aches and pains
Infections
Indigestion
Dizziness
Fainting
Sweating & trembling
Tingling hands & feet
Breathlessness
Palpitations
Missed heartbeats

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Mental

Lack of concentration
Memory lapses
Difficulty in making decisions
Confusion
Disorientation
Panic attacks

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Emotional

Bouts of depression
Impatience
Fits of rage
Tearfulness
Deterioration of personal hygiene and appearance

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Behavioral

Appetite changes - too much or too little
Eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia
Increased intake of alcohol & other drugs
Increased smoking
Restlessness
Fidgeting
Nail biting
Hypochondria

Stress Related Illnesses

Stress is not the same as ill-health, but has been related to such illnesses as:

Cardiovascular disease
Immune system disease
Asthma
Diabetes

Digestive disorders
Ulcers
Skin complaints - psoriasis

Headaches and migraines
Pre-menstrual syndrome
Depression

Costs of Stress

Workplace stress has caused between $125 and $190 billion a year of added expenditures in health care.  The biggest factor is high demands at work, which result in about $48 billion in spending (Forbes 2015).

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Why Do We Work?

Work provides an income and fulfils a variety of other needs: mental and physical exercise, social contact, a feeling of self-worth and competence.

Factors Influencing Work Stress

Drive for Success

Western society is driven by ‘work’, personal adequacy equates with professional success, we crave status and abhor failure. Our culture demands monetary success / professional status.

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Changing Work Patterns

Many people feel lucky to have a job. Unemployment, redundancy, shorter working weeks, new technology affect emotional and physical security. No more jobs for life, more short - term contracts. Financial and emotional burnout is increasing among all levels.

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Working Conditions

Physical and mental health is adversely affected by unpleasant working conditions, such as high noise levels, lighting, temperature and unsocial or excessive hours.

Overwork

Stress may occur through an inability to cope with the technical or intellectual demands of a particular task.
Circumstances such as long hours, unrealistic deadlines and frequent interruptions will compound this.

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Underwork

This may arise from boredom because there is not enough to do, or because a job is dull and repetitive.

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Uncertainty

About the individuals work role - objectives, responsibilities, and expectations, and a lack of communication and feedback can result in confusion, helplessness, and stress.

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Conflict

Stress can arise from work the individual does not want to do or that conflicts with their personal, social and family values.

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Responsibility

The greater the level of responsibility the greater the potential level of stress.

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Relationships at Work

Good relationships with colleagues are crucial. Open discussion is essential to encourage positive relationships.

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Changes at Work

Changes that alter psychological, physiological and behavioural routines such as promotion, retirement and redundancy are particularly stressful.

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Self-Help

Not all the stress we experience is generated at work!!

Organizational

Company take over
Reductions / layoffs
Major reorganization
Company sale / relocation
Employee benefit cuts
Mandatory overtime required
Little input into decisions
Mistake consequences severe
Workloads vary
Fast paced work

React to changes
Advancement difficult
Red tape delays jobs
Insufficient resources
Pay below going rate
Technology changes
Employee benefits poor
Workplace conditions
Consistent poor performance

Major Life Events

Death of a loved one
Divorce / separation
Imprisonment
Injury/illness ( self / family )
Marriage/ engagement
Loss of job
Retirement
Pregnancy
Sexual Problems

Change in financial status
Change of job / work
Mortgage or loan
Foreclosure of mortgage/loan
Change in responsibilities
Moving house
Holidays
Christmas
Minor violations of the law

Recognize the Problem

The most important point is to recognize the source of the negative stress. This is not an admission of weakness or inability to cope! It is a way to identify the problem and plan measures to overcome it.

Stress Control:  A-B-C Strategy

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A - Awareness

What causes you stress? How do you react?

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B - Balance

There is a fine line between positive/negative stress. How much can you cope with before it becomes negative?

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C - Control

What can you do to help yourself combat the negative effects of stress?

Stress Management Techniques

Change Your Thinking

Re-framing

Re-framing is a technique to change the way you look at things in order to feel better about them. There are many ways to interpret the same situation so pick the one you like. Re-framing does not change the external reality, but helps you view things in a different light and less stressfully.

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Positive Thinking

Forget powerlessness, dejection, despair, failure
Stress leaves us vulnerable to negative suggestion so focus on positives:

Focus on your strengths
Learn from the stress you are under
Look for opportunities
Seek out the positive - make a change.

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Change Your Behavior

Be Assertive

Assertiveness helps to manage stressful situations, and will , in time, help to reduce their frequency. Lack of assertiveness often shows low self - esteem and low self - confidence. The key to assertiveness is verbal and non - verbal communication. Extending our range of communication skills will improve our assertiveness.

Being assertive involves standing up for your personal rights and expressing your thoughts, feelings and beliefs directly, honestly and spontaneously in ways that don’t infringe the rights of others.

Equality and Basic Rights

  1. The right to express my feelings
  2. The right to express opinions / beliefs
  3. The right to say ‘Yes/No’ for yourself
  4. Right to change your mind
  5. Right to say ‘I don’t understand’
  6. Right to be yourself, not acting for the benefit of others
  7. The right to decline responsibility for other people’s problems
  8. The right to make reasonable requests of others
  9. The right to set my own priorities
  10. The right to be listened to, and taken seriously

Assertive People:

Respect themselves and others
Take responsibility for actions and choices
Ask openly for what they want
Disappointed if ‘want’ denied
Self - confidence remains intact
Not reliant on the approval of others

Assertive Skills:

Establish good eye contact / don’t stare
Stand or sit comfortably - don’t fidget
Talk in a firm, steady voice
Use body language
‘I think’ / ‘I feel’
‘What do you think?’ ‘How do you feel?’
Concise and to the point

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Get Organized

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Poor organization is one of the most common causes of stress. Structured approaches offer security against ‘out of the blue’ problems. Prioritizing objectives, duties and activities makes them manageable and achievable. Don’t overload your mind. Organization will help avoid personal and professional chaos.

Benefits

Higher self-esteem
Less self-conscious
Less anxious
Manage stress more successfully
Appreciate yourself and others more easily
Feeling of self-control

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Time Management

Make a list
-- What MUST be done
-- What SHOULD be done
-- What would you LIKE to do
Cut out time wasting
Learn to drop unimportant activities
Say no or delegate
Plan your day
Set achievable goals
Don’t waste time making excuses for not doing something

Ventilation

‘A problem shared is a problem halved’
Develop a support network through friends or colleagues to talk with. It’s not always events that are stressful but how we perceive them. Writing a diary or notes may help release feelings but do not re-read what has been written.

Humor

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Good stress - reducer
Applies at home and work
Relieves muscular tension
Improves breathing
Pumps endorphins into the bloodstream - the body’s natural painkillers

Diversion & Distraction

Take time out
Get away from things that bother you
Doesn’t solve the problem
Reduce stress level
Calm down
Think logically

Change Your Lifestyle

Diet

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Healthy eating habits
Caffeine (Stimulant)
Salt

Smoking and Alcohol

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Moderate your consumption

Benefits of Exercise

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Uses up excess energy released by the ‘Fight or Flight’ reaction.
Improves blood circulation
Lowers blood pressure
Clears the mind of worrying thoughts
Improves self image
Makes you feel better about yourself
Increases social contact

Sleep

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Good stress reducer
Difficult to cope when tired
Wake refreshed after night’s sleep
Plenty of daytime energy

Leisure

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Interest
Gives you a ‘break’ from stresses
Provides outlet for relief
Provides social contact

Benefits of Relaxation

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Lowers blood pressure
Combats fatigue
Promotes sleep
Reduces pain
Eases muscle tension
Decreases mental worries
Increases concentration
Increases productivity
Increases clear thinking

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Alternatives

Conventional Medicine
Counselling & Psychotherapy
Relaxation
Meditation
Massage
Yoga
Acupuncture
Aromatherapy
Floatation
Herbalism
Biofeedback
Homeopathy
Hypnotherapy
Osteopathy
Pet Therapy
Reflexology