Features

April Is Stress Awareness Month

A PERFECT time to learn why it’s becoming a major issue!

Many of us have heard the term ‘hard work never killed anyone’ but are you aware that chronic stress can! The Stress Management Society defines stress as a situation where demand exceeds a person’s resources or ability to cope. At a basic level stress causes biological changes to occur in the mind and body when it feels threatened, whether the threat is real or imagined.

Stress is triggered by a stressor which is a stimulus or event that provokes a stress response in the body. This response causes the nervous system to release a flood of stress hormones that provide additional strength, endurance and energy to prepare the body for emergencies. This is called the “fight or flight syndrome” an instinctive response that dates back to when cavemen had to meet life–threatening challenges.

We generally focus on the negative side of stress (distress). However, stress can be positive (eustress) as our bodies mobilize the resources to meet challenges that motivate us to move into action and get things accomplished.

When does stress become harmful?

We all experience some level of stress in our work and/or personal lives, either short-term (acute) or long term (chronic). As life becomes more demanding and challenging, we tend to activate our stress hormones more frequently than they were designed for. If the body does not have sufficient time to recover between stressful episodes, it becomes overloaded and leads to chronic stress.

Long-term stresshas been linked to mental health problems and emotional illnesses such as anxiety and depression. There are also physical problems including heart disease, skin conditions, memory loss and insomnia. Furthermore, work-related symptoms include absenteeism, poor decision making, lack of concentration and accidents.

Health professionals have estimated that some 75–85% of all health issues are precipitated or aggravated by stress and experts refer to it as the ‘’silent killer’’. Therefore, stress management should become a priority for both individuals and organizations.
Some common stressful life events and issues include:
• Financial problems • Clinging to stressful and negative relationships
• Internal and work conflict
• Death and divorce
• Getting married and having a baby
• Losing a job and ill health
• Long working hours and stressful conditions

How do you recognizewhen your stress levels are becoming unhealthy?

Our tolerance levels and responses to stress differ. Some people experience physical symptoms in the form of pain and others emotional, which can affect their mood and behavior. If you are experiencing symptoms including: tense and sore muscles; high blood pressure; chest pains; memory loss and are short tempered, these are signs that you may be entering into the unhealthy zone. If you believe you are suffering from chronic stress, you should consult a medical professional for an assessment.

Outlined below is a strategy that we have found particularly helpful in managing stress:

The four ‘As’
1. Avoid unnecessary stress
2. Alter the situation (if possible)
3. Adapt to the stressor
4. Accept the things you cannot control and focus on those you can

Final tips: Take regular exercise which helps to offset the impact of stress, keep your body hydrated with water, find time to relax, eat a healthy diet and build supportive and nurturing relationships.

If you are interested in learning more about the psychology of stress, assessing your stress level, the coping mechanisms and new science techniques in one of our following programmes;

• Conflict Resolution
• Stress for Work-life Balance Workshops
• Master Classes
• Coaching Programmes

Please contact: Cynthia Alexander, Managing Director, CEA Consultancy on (758) 450 9488 / (758) 715 2748 or visit our website www.ceaconsultancy.com

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