The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as: ‘A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’.
A little bit of stress can be good for us. It motivates us to achieve goals and can keep boredom at bay; however, when you take on too many projects or find yourself constantly battling your bullying boss, it is time to do something about it.
Most people become stressed because of their jobs. They need the job to pay the bills, but they find themselves dreading going into work. Nowadays, due to cut backs, it is common for employees to be doing the work of two or more people. This isn’t fair and can lead to all sorts of health problems.
Stress can lead to burnout. I spent a few months working in Social Services, as a tutor. It was hard for me to see what the stressful work environment was doing to my colleagues. As social workers, they had a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. They worked long hours, were constantly abused by anti-social families and kept themselves going by drinking endless cups of coffee and eating numerous cakes and biscuits, that they kept on a large table at the back of the office.
A lot of them only lasted a couple of years in the job, due to burnout and those who came to visit, once they had left, looked so much younger and happier. They told me it was like a weight had been lifted from their shoulders. Now, I’m not saying that all social workers will get burnout, I’m just trying to make the point that some careers are more stressful than others and if you wish to stay in a career like that, you will need to take steps to manage the stress otherwise it could lead to health problems in the future.
You don’t have to have a stressful career to feel the effects of stress, either. You could be a stay-at-home mum who is under pressure to compete with the other mums who juggle work and family and still look like they’ve stepped off the cover of Vogue, or perhaps you are a student who is constantly worrying about exams. Stress can take many forms.
How do I know if I am stressed?
If you are suffering from the type of stress that can cause problems, you will know you are a stressed. You will probably have all sorts of worries on your mind. You may feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to do all of the things you need to do and you may lose your temper or become tearful at the slightest thing. You may also have physical symptoms such as tension headaches or unexplained rashes. You may have trouble sleeping, or you may need more sleep than usual. Stress can lead to depression if the anxiety and worry becomes too much.
If you find it difficult to switch off and you start to get butterflies in your stomach when you are faced with the prospect of going to work, school or college, you may have a problem. The symptoms of stress are different for everyone. If you feel you are trapped in a negative cycle then you should start to make the necessary changes to help get your life back on track.
How do I cope with stress?
Meditation is all about clearing your mind from worries. You might find it difficult at first, but with regular practice you will find it easier to dismiss the thoughts that enter your head. The key is to stop dwelling on thoughts. You can meditate in the traditional way, by sitting cross-legged on the floor or you can meditate by lying in the bath, reading a book or walking in nature. When you are so engrossed in an activity that you lose track of time, you are in a meditative state. You must have noticed that you don’t focus on worries when you are enjoying yourself? Check out our other posts to help you find a meditation practice that works for you. You can also go on YouTube to find helpful meditations that can help you cope with stress.
Yoga can help you cope with stress as it is also a form of meditation. By focusing on each asana (yoga pose) it naturally takes your mind off your daily worries and the exercise can help you feel better while toning and strengthening your body at the same time. The focus on breathing also helps to de-stress you.
Aa mentioned above, yoga can help you learn about how to breath more effectively to cope with stress and there are lots of useful videos on YouTube; however, all you need to do is slow down your breathing. A good rule to follow is to breathe in for the count of 4, hold for a count of 4 and release for a count of 4. When you get more experienced at this, you can extend the breath out to be double the breath in. By breathing out slowly you will find it is like a sigh of relief. You can also combine breath work with meditation, focusing on breathing in love and light and breathing out negativity, for example.
No matter what you have going on, there is always time to slot in, even if it’s just 5 minutes, for you to indulge in some self-care. What do you really love to do? What gives you joy? Focus on that and try to extend the amount of time you give yourself. Do you really have to do everything on that to-do-list?
We hope this post has given you some ideas on how you can cope with stress. Check out our other posts for more inspiration.