Stress & The Working Grrl:
How to deal in a hectic world...
Stress. Put simply, stress is the presence of mental or emotional disruptive, or disquieting, influence and comes from the Latin word “strichis”…OK, that’s not all that simple. Let’s try this: Stress refers to a state of psychological tension caused by pressures from stimuli in the environment in which we live. These stressors can be anything from bad weather to having a paper due on Friday, and it’s Thursday and you haven’t even started!
The truth is that most of us experience stress and that most of us can make correct attributions to the cause of this stress, because for most of us, we are the cause of our own individual stress. I’m talking to the people who plan an outdoor picnic in the wettest month, and the girl who buys the new Jimmy Choos with this month’s rent money. Whoever you are and whatever it is that you do to cause your own stress, it might interest you to know that a certain level of stress is good for you. Most self-made stress is a bid to push oneself, to look a challenge in the eye (metaphorically, of course), and say, “I prevailed.” But – and there is always a but – you may also like to know that too much stress is bad for you (and yes, I realize that I won’t be getting a Nobel prize for this observation). Whilst this fact may be common knowledge, what is not so commonly known is how to best cope with stress.
We cannot avoid it altogether, nor can we hide from it, but we can better equip ourselves for when it hits us with force. There are a number of coping strategies out there, and God only knows how many self-help “stress buster” books, but here are a few selected favourites.
Change your perception. This isn’t the simplest thing in the world, and everyone hates an optimist but it’s not impossible. Certain stressors can actually be made positive; it just depends on how you are willing to look at a situation. For example, the ending of a relationship – yes, you could cry uncontrollably, and, yes, you could sit at home with the curtains drawn eating chocolate and watching Ghost. Or, you could thank your lucky stars that the undomesticated, poor excuse for a man has vacated your life. Look upon this as a new release, no longer restrained by the shackles of coupledom. And back are the days of girly nights in, and only thinking about number one...you! Or let’s look at a job termination: “You’re fired!” – upon hearing these words, many easily slip into a well of anxiety and despair, stress begins to build, along with worries of how you’ll afford next month’s trends, how this will affect your social life, and finally, how you will pay the bills. STOP! This is OK; in fact, this is great. Now you can pursue the career you’ve always wanted. See, this not as a set back, but as a step forward. Now you’re free, you can start fresh and follow your dreams, whatever they may be. Gone will be the days of the dreaded Monday morning feeling – instead, you will reach Friday and hope the weekend flies by. What I’m saying is, take a positive approach and remember: when life gives you lemons…make a lemon puff (or something).
What are the causes of stress and are they avoidable? Start by asking yourself what are the main causes of the stress in your life. If there are certain people that you have frequent disagreements or arguments with, try to limit your contact with these individuals or steer clear of the topics that cause the stress. Avoid situations and people who make you feel less than you are. Feelings of inadequacy and degradation of any kind can lead to stress; if people are making you feel this way then tell them so. If they continue to do it, they may be doing it for their own amusement. These sorts of people are not worth your time.
Talk about it. And I cannot “stress” this enough. Sometimes just saying things out loud is a great help. Now, I’m not suggesting that you sit on your own and talk to yourself about your trouble (not only will this be of little help, but you risk being institutionalized); I mean, talk to a sympathetic ear, a friend or colleague, whomever…they weren’t kidding when they said a problem shared is a problem halved. Talking about your problems can also shed some much needed clarity on a situation: You are not the only one who feels this way. Most of us, when we’re feeling stressed and anxious, genuinely believe that everyone else is feeling perfectly fine and that we are the minority…WRONG! We all know that feeling, when we’re about to give a presentation in a lecture or at work, the same feeling we get just before an interview. You have butterflies in your stomach and your palms are sweating, and you want to walk out. I guarantee that the person who went in before you and the person going in after you are all experiencing the same thing. Stress is an issue of the majority.
Failing any of the above, there are certain things in your everyday routine that can increase your stress levels. Such factors include caffeine drinks, smoking, and alcohol consumption (many use this as a line of defense, and whilst it pains me to say it, this is a huge misconception). Drastic changes in lifestyle can be great, but be careful not to take on too much at once – especially if you are prone to stress. Try not to become too worried over the problems of your family and friends that you place your own health concerns aside. They will likely look to you for support, support that you will be unable to provide if you’re an anxiety-ridden wreck yourself.
In addition, exercise is a great way of releasing stress, plus it also has great physical benefits. When exercising, you not only distract yourself from your stressors but your body will begin to release endorphins, which will make you feel happier. Yoga is a great form of exercise that has been around for thousands of years, and is a perfect outlet for stress and frustration. The practice of yoga also involves a number of stress management strategies, such as breathing, movement and meditation. Muscle relaxation and tension reduction are key to reducing the physical effects of stress. Try working from the top of your body, tensing the muscles for a short period of ten seconds and then relaxing them; do this all the way down. The great thing is that this can be done anywhere, whether you are sitting at your desk or walking the dog, and the only tool you need is your body.
Stress can interfere with and impair a normal, healthy lifestyle. If you feel that you are suffering from stress despite your best efforts, and you feel you are losing control, seek help. There is no shortage of support and help out there, but it won’t find you!
Furthermore, remember to have fun – it’s everywhere and you only live once! ¤ Anna