Managing stress

Stress is regarded as one of the major
new-age diseases. While there is positive stress that functions as motivation to achieve, there is also the detrimental negative stress that can lead to immense personal
and professional loss. And if one is heading
down that path, then one surely needs guidance to manage stress and reduce it to a
healthy level.

First, some good news: while everyday hassles, such as traffic, lousy weather, lost keys
or computer crashes when a deadline is near,
are exasperating, they do not pose a threat to
health. But other stressful experiences or situations do increase the risk of illness when
they severely disrupt a person’s life, when
they are uncontrollable or when they are
chronic (lasting at least six months). Some of
these stressors can be work-related problems, noise, bereavement and loss, poverty,
feelings of powerlessness, divorce, retirement, change in job, major family celebrations, and even minor violations of the law.

“Basically, stress is the wear and tear our
bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment,” says Crystal
Manning, an account executive for JRG
Advisors, the management company for
ChamberChoice. “It has physical and emotional effects.”

Smart Business spoke with Manning about
stress management.

What is stress management?

Stress management encompasses techniques intended to equip a person with effective coping mechanisms for dealing with psychological stress response. Stress management is effective when a person utilizes
strategies to cope with or alter stressful situations. To effectively manage stress, you may
need to make emotional and physical
changes. The degree of the stress and the
desire to make the changes will determine
the level of change that will take place.

What factors into stress management?

There are three main factors — attitude,
physical well-being and time management.

  • Attitude. The attitude of an individual can
    influence whether a situation or emotion is
    stressful. Having a negative attitude can predict stress in a person, because this type of
    person will often report more stress than
    would someone with a positive attitude.
    Most people think that stress is something
    that just happened to them. But another way
    of looking at stress would be as something in
    you, something that depends on your
    thoughts and emotions. For example, do you
    see your work as an endless set of assignments you will never complete or as a challenging task to master? The answer will
    affect how stressed you are.

  • Physical well-being. A poor diet places
    the body in a state of physical stress with a
    weakened immune system. As a result, one
    may be more susceptible to infections. A
    poor diet can be related to unhealthy food
    choices, not eating enough or an unpredictable eating schedule. Some people
    exposed to major stressors are sick for
    months; others don’t even get the sniffles. So
    take good care of yourself. Get plenty of rest,
    eat well, exercise, don’t smoke and limit alcohol use. Regular exercise is one of the best
    ways to manage stress. Take a walk (with
    someone or alone) to clear your mind. You
    will find you have more energy to accomplish
    the next stressful task.

  • Time management. Understanding how
    to manage your time is another way to help
    control stress. This involves learning to set
    limits, saying no to some demands that others make and clearly organizing and prioritizing your day. Learn better ways to manage
    your time. You may get more done with less
    stress if you make a schedule. Keep in mind
    that this is to help with stress; if the schedule
    is stressful, find a solution that works for you.

So how can one cope with overwhelming
stress?

Look at how you deal with stress. Be honest about what works. Try new ways of thinking. When you find yourself starting to worry,
try to stop the thoughts. Work on letting go of
things you cannot change. Ask for help.
People who have a strong network of family
and friends manage stress better. They can
offer concern and affection. They can help
you evaluate problems and plan a course of
action. Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry
and express anger when you need to; even
writing helps you express your feelings. Find
that special person that you can hug. One of
the greatest benefits of social support is the
physical affection and comfort it provides.

Do something you enjoy. Hobbies are a
great way to relax. Volunteer work or work
that helps others is a great stress reliever. It’s
a perfect way to give support to others, rather
than always being on the receiving end.

Another stress reliever is learning how to
relax your body. Breathing exercises, muscle
relaxation, massages, chiropractic visits,
yoga, aromatherapy or relaxing exercises
such as tai chi and gi gong are ways to relax
and reduce stress. Focus on the present.
Listen to relaxing music. Meditate, pray or try
imagery exercises or self-hypnosis — whatever works for you.

Successful coping does not mean eliminating all stress. It does not mean constant happiness or a life without pain. Optimistic people live longer and are more likely to stay
healthy. The healthy person faces problems,
deals with them and gets beyond them. How
we handle our stress is a test of our humanity. Be optimistic, laugh and keep smiling.

CRYSTAL MANNING is an account executive for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach her at (412) 456-7254 or crystal.[email protected].