By Bridget Edwards, Stress Expert and Author of the book Stress Gone! How to Identify and Reduce Stress Easily
In my previous article, I touched on stress being a motivation for some people, while others simply fall apart under the same stressful circumstances. Therefore, self awareness and self understanding are key components of successfully dealing with and managing your stress. It is important to learn how to recognize when your stress levels are out of control. Being able to discern, and know when you feel the effects of stress creeping up on you well before it takes hold, is fundamental. This level of awareness is vital.
The physical or emotional symptoms and signs are there – become familiar with how you feel. Notice what is going on mentally, emotionally and physically. Stress doesn’t always look stressful. This is the real danger because as stress creeps upon you, you can get used to it. It starts to feel familiar or normal. Perhaps you don’t notice how much it is affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll. These symptoms and signs could be almost anything, and will differ from person to person. Stress affects the body, mind and behaviour in numerous ways – there is no rule of thumb. When properly understood, and with discernment, stress becomes like a guide which can help you to successfully navigate your way through life, relationships and in demanding circumstances avoiding those unnecessary amygdala hijacks.
Stress doesn’t always look stressful
Psychologist Connie Lillas uses a driving analogy to describe the three most common ways people respond when they’re overwhelmed by stress:
- Foot on the gas – An angry, agitated, or “fight” stress response. You’re heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.
- Foot on the brake – A withdrawn, depressed, or “flight” stress response. You shut down, pull away, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
- Foot on both – A tense or “freeze” stress response. You become frozen under pressure and can’t do anything. You look paralyzed, but under the surface you’re extremely agitated.
How much stress is too much?
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, it's important to know your own limit. But just how much stress is "too much" differs from person to person. We are all different. Some people are able to roll with the punches, while others seem to crumble in the face of far smaller obstacles or frustrations. Some people even seem to thrive on the excitement and challenge of a high-stress lifestyle.
Your ability to tolerate stress depends on many factors, including the quality of your relationships, your general outlook on life, your emotional intelligence, genetics, and of course your attitude too.
Things that influence your stress tolerance level
- Your support network – A strong network of supportive friends and family members can be an enormous buffer against life’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.
- Your sense of control – It may be easier to take stress in your stride if you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges. If you feel like things are out of your control, you’re likely to have less tolerance for stress.
- Your attitude and outlook – Optimistic people are often more stress-hardy. They tend to embrace challenges, have a strong sense of humour, and accept that change is a part of life.
- Your ability to deal with your emotions – You are extremely vulnerable to stress if you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed by a situation. The ability to bring your emotions into balance helps you bounce back from adversity and is a skill that can be learned at any age.
- Your knowledge and preparation– The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less traumatic than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately.
To reiterate, the key to successful stress management is self awareness and self understanding, along with recognizing how you react under stressful circumstances. Self awareness is also the acknowledgement of what the possible cause or causes are of your stress.
To help you achieve this effortlessly, perhaps you may want to refer to my best-selling book, Stress Gone! How to Identify and Reduce Stress Easily to help you to cope with and reduce the impacts of day-to-day stress related issues. Stress Gone! is a comprehensive and practical self help program and guidebook complete with exercises, techniques and an audio all designed to address the numerous stressful situations busy executives, entrepreneurs and people of all walks of life face.
Bridget Edwards is a South African entrepreneur, author and emotional change catalyst. She is passionate about helping people overcome their emotional obstacles and personal challenges. She does this through speaking engagements, training (workshops), and private consultations. Bridget has authored two self-help books, Anger gone! How to Easily Defeat Anger, and Stress Gone! How to Identify and Reduce Stress Easily. She continues to write self help programs to assist people in dealing with their personal obstacles. www.Bridget-Edwards.com
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