It is important to learn how to manage the stress that comes from having too many things going on in your life. You will be given a variety of suggestions to help counteract this stress.
“Never hurry and never worry” E.B. White
“Yeah, right. Easier said than done,” you say!
The word stress is usually used to describe the feelings that people experience when the demands made on them are greater than their ability to cope. At such times people can often feel overloaded, under tremendous pressure and very tense or emotional. Stress affects everyone, young and old and is a completely normal reaction that all human beings will experience from time to time when faced with situations in which they feel pressure.
Stress can be looked at in terms of external and internal stressors.
External stressors are sources of stress that we are aware of around us, such as trauma, life experiences or simply daily hassles. Internal stressors are the sources of stress that are inside us and are often the most common sources of stress. They are the thoughts and feelings that pop into your head and cause you to feel uneasy. These can include unrealistic expectations, uncertainties, low self esteem and apprehensions.
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The workplace is also known to be a key factor in stress. A study conducted by the International Stress Management Association found that more than half of people in work had suffered from stress over a period of a year. Also, statistics have shown that a quarter of working people had taken time off sick due to stress and that stress is the leading cause of sick leave.
Common causes of stress at work include workload, long hours, responsibilities, role expectations, bullying or harassment, lack of job security, poor working environment, the organisational structure, career development and lack of support.
Many of these stressors are also present in study environments.
Stress can manifest itself as many different symptoms, ranging from physical to psychological and behavioural, and people may experience these to varying degrees.
Physical symptoms can include increased heart rate, sweaty palms, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, fatigue, vomiting, change in breathing patterns, dry mouth, headaches, nausea or dizziness, indigestion or heartburn and sudden weight loss or gain.
Psychological symptoms can include anxious thoughts, irritability, low self esteem and confidence, inability to concentrate, feeling fearful, feeling unable to cope, difficulty making decisions, feeling negative and lack of interest in life, feeling alone, loss of creativity, withdrawal, frustration and confusion.
Behavioural symptoms can include altered sleep patterns, use of drugs or alcohol, changes in appetite, avoiding situations, changing habits, nail biting, teeth grinding, neglect of physical appearance, lack of communication, putting off difficult jobs and giving excuses.
Tips on reducing stress:
Often stress comes from the feeling that you have too much to do and not enough time in which to get it done. You can reduce this stress by identifying how you are currently spending your time and looking at ways to plan more effectively. Check out the time management section to help plan your time.
If you can identify when you are feeling stressed and what has caused that feeling, you are halfway to solving the problem. You could keep track of this in written form, or try an app that performs this function
Exercising will help reduce stress and make you feel better able to handle the tasks ahead. Even a 10-minute walk around the block can release tension. If you have children, try doing exercise that includes them.
Breathing properly from the abdomen has long been shown to reduce the effects of stress. You can learn techniques from books or online. For example, the Breathe2relax app will take you through breathing exercises. Download from Google Play or Itunes. You also could download this podcast.
Make sure you have planned your time well enough to allow time to connect with other people. Forming a study group can help you connect and work towards your academic goals at the same time.
Having enough sleep is essential to cope with everyday challenges. If you suffer from poor sleeping patterns, take a look at these five very useful tips:
- Set up a relaxing bed time routine. For example, you might drink a cup of warm milk and read a chapter of a novel in bed, or do some yoga and have a hot bath.
- Maintain a regular go-to-sleep and wake-up schedule. Set your own internal clock.
- Try to resist watching the clock when in bed. It causes you to feel stressed.
- Create an optimal sleep environment. People sleep best in dark, quiet, cool environments.
- Make your bedroom a tech-free environment. This will help you avoid checking messages, social media and work-related communication, all of which get your mind buzzing.
You could also access one of the many relevant online resources available such as this podcast.
Everything you eat and drink affects how you feel. Try to eat lots of fruit and vegetables, and avoid consuming too many fats and sugars. Also, reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Try this healthy eating quiz to determine how well you’re eating.
If you feel your workload has become totally overwhelming, talk to someone such as a family member or a counsellor.
BBC. (n.d.). Managing stress. Video retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnpQrMqDoqE
Mental Health Foundation. (n.d.). Wellbeing and sleep: full works. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/podcasts-and-videos/wellbeing-and-sleep-full-works
Mental Health Foundation. (n.d.) Stress and the mind: quick-fix relaxation exercise. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/podcasts-and-videos/stress-and-mind-quick-fix-relaxation-exercise
Watchwellcast. (2012). How to sleep better. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eLfn7Ewx_s
Watchwellcast. (2013). Stress management strategies: ways to unwind. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fL-pn80s-c
University of Newcastle. (2013). Healthy eating quiz. Retrieved from http://healthyeatingquiz.com.au/
This work includes material from the following sources:
Anxiety UK. (n.d). Stress. Retrieved from http://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/about-anxiety/stress/ Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License
Hero image: Water splash. PublicDomainPictures. Retrieved from: https://pixabay.com/en/splashing-splash-aqua-water-rain-275950/ Licensed under Creative Commons CC0 Universal