Stress!!! It’s such a little word that means so very much to so many of us.
Stress means different things to people but it is really the uncomfortable feeling of not coping with the pressures of life. The “not coping” is key here because we all experience the pressures of life and we often cope just fine. It’s when we feel overwhelmed and we cannot cope that we experience stress (or excessive stress if you prefer that term).
A great many books have been written about stress management, coping skills, etc. Many are very worth a read. We’ll keep things short & simple by outlining a practical approach to handling the stress-monster (we call it IDAMR):
- IDENTIFY – you need to know what is causing stress. The key is to be specific so don’t say “work stresses me” but maybe something like “my work is unrealistic given the time I have to complete things” or “I cannot stand all the noise in the open plan office”.
- DECIDE – what can you do about this? What will you do about this? You need to list ALL the options you can think of and then decide what you are actually going to do. There is nearly always something you can do but do remember that “graceful acceptance” is still an option when you really feel there is absolutely nothing you can do to change or better-manage a situation.
- ACT – this is the key. This is where so many of us fall down. You have figured out what the problem is, you’ve created an action plan, but now it’s time to DO something. In a very real sense stress management is an active thing; it’s about taking control and taking action.
- MOVE – if you do not exercise regularly you will struggle to cope with stress. Active living is one of the great secrets of highly functional people, almost always. Besides the many physical benefits it is a tremendous way to de-stress, one that you simply cannot live (well) without.
- RELAX – there must be time for relaxation in your life. It might be meditation, simple breathing exercises, daily walks, regular massages, a good book, time in nature, meeting friends, or whatever helps you to feel better and more relaxed. If you don’t make time for this sort of thing you will struggle, quite literally, to cope.
This simple plan can really help but sometimes you need professional help when things get more severe. If you feel you cannot cope please know that you are not alone and that help is at hand if you’ll just seek it. Your family doctor, a psychologist, and the company EAP, are all places you can consider.