STRESS MANAGEMENT

Stress is tension where the body tenses up,  it is less relaxed, more irritable and critical, less creative, less productive, more overwhelmed, overall lowered state of health (that is mental, emotional &physical health).

Why do you feel stress? Because we are struggling with something within ourselves. Something is going to happen and we are preparing ourselves for it. It can be something you want very much or something you strongly do not want at all. Stress and excitements actually have the same root. Both have the same amount of energy.

Excitement is
- when you want it
- you feel nice and even having fun
- it matches with what you think life is all about
- you gain something, adding value to your life

Stress is
- when you do not want it
- it feels painful
- there is conflict against something that you believe in
- your values & principles in life are challenged
- you potentially lose something, taking away from your life

It is all emotional expectations, starting from your thoughts. Body, Feelings, Mind & Soul are linked together. What affects one affects the other.

Here are some questions only you can answer truthfully:
- Do you feel tension in any part of your body?
- Are you having some fun in life?
- Are you eating healthy?
- Is your workload too much and never
   finished?
- Do you worry constantly about certain
   issues?
- Do you look forward to tomorrow?
- Can you talk easily with another person?
- Is hope still there in your heart?

How do you calm down, when you are feeling stress?
You have to let it go. And the faster, the better it is.

There are many ways - Physically, Emotionally, Mentally.

SOURCES OF STRESS

To identify your true sources of stress, first look closely at your habits, attitude and excuses.
•    Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million
      things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember
      the last time you took a breather?

•    Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life
     (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your
     personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”)

•    Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events
     or view it as entirely normal & unexceptional?

Most common source of stress comes from the family. Families are made up of individuals, each with their own unique personality. When these different personalities live together, conflict will undoubtedly surface and cause stress. Individuals will also experience distress when a family member becomes ill or engages in self-destructive behaviors.

Family-related stress is perfectly normal and most people can overcome the pressure in due time. However, if you or your family is unable to cope with the stress, it may be time to seek professional counseling.

Another big source of stress is relationships. We can experience tension with a loved one because each person has their own way of doing things and interacting with others. When one fails to meet the expectations of the other, conflict can arise. Problems can also occur during the course life changes such as divorce, illness and work-related issues.

Sit down and have a heart-to-heart. Best medicine for a heavy heart - express yourself openly with someone you care about who will listen.


 Another source stems from work. Many people are not happy with their current job, have interpersonal conflicts with coworkers / boss,  they feel not being paid enough,  having feeling of powerlessness or  being undervalued, etc

Identify what is causing the stress and determine if you have any control over the situation in order to make changes.

RESPONDING TO STRESS


Everyone responds differently to stressful events - part instinct and part to do with how we think. We can train our minds how to best respond to the stressors in our lives. Some stress in our daily lives is good and challenges us to reach even higher heights. Be able to identify the stress in your life for what it is so you can then go about the business of dealing with it more effectively.

COPING WITH STRESS

Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. All healthy ways to manage & cope with stress require change - either change the situation or your reaction.

Think of the four As: Avoid, Alter, Adapt, Or Accept.

Everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.

Dealing with Stressful Situations: The Four A’s

      
Change the situation
·         Avoid the stressor
·         Alter the stressor 
      
             Change your reaction
                     ·          Adapt to the stressor
                     ·         Accept the stressor


Stress Management Strategy #1: Avoid Unnecessary Stress
 Not all stress can be avoided but there are a number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.

•     Learn how to say “no”
Know your limits and stick to them whether in personal or professional life. Accepting responsibilities more than you can handle will affect your schedules and stress level. Limit your activities to those that produce
more results. Pacing your assignments will help in keeping stress to the minimum.

•     Be on the look out for "time stealers” those who will try to pass on their responsibilities to you. Leave time for yourself. Don’t give them all away. Other time stealers are officemates who spend too much time chatting over the phone, use too much time discussing personal lives, who loudly complain about their plight. All these can rob you of the concentration needed to be able to accomplish the assigned tasks.

•     Avoid people who stress you out. If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time spent with that person or end the relationship

•    Take control of your environment . If the evening news makes you anxious, turn the TV off. If traffic  get you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online

•    Avoid hot-button topics. If you get upset over religion or politics, cross them off your conversation list. If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion

•    Pare down your to-do list - Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. Distinguish between the “shoulds” & the “musts.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.

 
Stress Management Strategy #2: Alter The Situation
If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself in the future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.

•    Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way.  If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remain the same

•    Change your communication style. Express things and communicate in a way that makes your views known without making
others defensive, hostile, or intimidated. Poor communication can result to stress

•    Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, good chance of finding a happy middle ground

•    Be more assertive. Don’t take a backseat in your own life. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them

•    Manage your time better. When you are stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. Plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you can alter the amount of stress


Stress Management Strategy #3: Adapt To The Stressor

If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.

•    Reframe problems. View stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station or enjoy some alone time

•    Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere

•    Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others - okay with “good enough”

•    Focus on the positive. Take a moment to reflect on all the things
you appreciate in your life, your positive qualities and gifts.  Change your thinking patterns - when an event triggers negative thoughts, you experience a range of emotions that include fear, insecurity, anxiety, depression, rage, guilt and a sense of worthlessness or powerlessness. Be vigilant and catch yourselves from engaging in negative thoughts, words/ language to help eliminate stress. Replace the words “could", “would", and “should"  with “can" & “will" . If you catch yourself using the 3 regret words - stop! Rephrase yourself with a can-do frame of mind.

Use a problem solving process that will help identify all aspects of a stressful event and find ways to deal with it .

•    Adjusting & Changing Your Attitude. How you think can have a profound affect on your emotional and physical well-being. If you see good things about yourself, you are more likely to feel good; the reverse is also true. Have a positive outlook on life where you recognize opportunities and make the best out of anything that doesn't go as planned. Don't whine or complain at all. Never regret the past. Learn from it and move forward.


Stress Management Strategy #4: Accept The Things You Can’t Change
Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness or a national recession. Accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.

•    Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control - particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems

•    Look for the upside. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes

•    Share your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist. Expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation. Solicit social support such as positive support we receive from our families, friends & community.  It makes us feel cared for, loved, esteemed and valued

•    Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments.
Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.

Stress Busting Tip #1: Take Control

Don’t give up when going gets tough - always hope for something better! When we give up, our fight-or-flight seems to just fizzle and become caught up in a maze of one unfortunate event following another.

You can take control today! Isolate only 1particular stressor in your life and then work on it until you regain control. Being hopeful is a quiet confidence -  write out step-by-step an action plan today about how you’ll tackle just 1 major problem in your life.

To actualize the hope you feel, sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Take your mind to a pleasant place and feel every one of your muscles relax. Command each muscle to relax. Constrict and then relax each muscle.

Have a beautiful picture in your mind. Imagine you are part of that beautiful picture now and imagine that as you work on your problems you will become that beautiful picture. Your life will become that beautiful picture.

Sit and relax, deep breathing, seeing only that beautiful picture. See all of your most pressing problems resolved.

When you sit up from your relaxed state, write out how you will tackle the problems you have just imagined. Now, go about doing what you have  written one step at a time. The ability to relax, meditate, imagine and plan to resolve a problem is a proven stress buster. Take control of each and every problem that causes you undue stress. You can make the stress work for you!

Stress Busting Tip #2: Releasing Yesterday

Resolve right now to release every thought from yesterday and be only mindful of the now.... this thought only...this breath...this moment. Take in 3 very deep breaths and slowly release each one. Use this special time and place to be calm. Free your mind and body of all worry, regret,  disappointment, all anger and grief.

Now go to your inner quiet place. Go deep inside to a place where you feel that you are at peace, just relax, breathe in deeply and enjoy the feeling of being at one and at peace within yourself. At the same time feel each and every concern, problem and unresolved moment begin to dissolve. You can deal with them at a later time. For now, you are only to be in this very moment.



Stress Busting Tip #3: Make Time For Fun & Relaxation

Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.
Include relaxation time in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, better able to handle life’s stressors when they inevitably come.

Laugh Your Stress Away
Humor is a terrific stress-reducer and antidote to all manner of upsets. A good laugh relaxes tense muscles, sends more oxygen into your system, quicker and lowers your blood pressure. Tune to a favorite comedy. Read a funny book. Call up a good friend and laugh heartily for a few good minutes. It doesn't even hurt to just force a good laugh  - just fake the laughter!!

Do something you enjoy every day.
Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy - stargazing, playing the piano or working on your bike. Express creativity as much as possible eg painting, writing, designing, sculpting, problem solving, building, models

Self-Improvement
Develop a new skill. Learn to do something new. Find out how to do something better. Your improved value, ability and sense of accomplishment will make you feel good.

Connect with others. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. A strong support system will buffer you from negative effects of stress.

Spend time with like-minded people.
When you are with people you trust, who understand you and are willing to listen, you are more likely to talk and open up. Talking is a natural mechanism that relieves stress and talking about your problems makes it easier to deal with them. Being in the company of friends will make you more likely to be in a good vibe with them. Social vibing is another human mechanism that causes people to feel good. Having fun and laughing always make you feel better.

Help Others. When you donate or do charity, you feel good. Such as solving problems, fixing stuff, teaching, public service, become a firefighter,
start a charity, organize a service group to address your community's issues and needs, cheer up lonely people, put something interesting into someone else's life, tutor or mentor someone for free.

Healthy Ways To Relax & Recharge



Go for a walk
Spend time in nature
Call a good friend
Sweat out tension with a good  
  workout
Write in your journal
Take a long bath
Light scented candles
• Listen to some high-energy music
• Be child like

Play with a pet
Work in your garden
Get a massage
Curl up with a good book
Listen to music
Relaxing sounds (slow music or
  natural sounds like wind/
    waves/water)
Read a humorous/light hearted book
Watch a comedy/feel good movie


Stress Busting Tip #4: Adopt A Healthy Lifestyle

Increase your resistance to stress by strengthening your physical health.

•    Exercise regularly. Physical activity (no less than 30 minutes moderate or 15 minutes intense) - more stressed you are, the more active you should be every day. Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise, 3 times per week. Nothing beats aerobic exercise for releasing pent-up stress and tension

•    Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day

•    Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary "highs" caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you will feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better

•    Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind

•    Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.

"Oh My, How Time Flies!? "My, My, Look At The Time?

Time waits for no one - utilize it to the fullest. Best way to win the race against time? Start with your habits. Make a list and examine your daily activities. Find out which eat most of your time and lead to lowest productivity.

1. Too much TV is #1 time stealer - eats up time meant for sleeping and recharging. Being hooked with movies or TV shows that keep you awake until late nights leave a heavy toll on your health. Sleeping with the TV on deprives you of a restful, continuous and peaceful sleep. These programs can wake you up in the middle of sleep & you may find it difficult to doze again.

2. Nightly parties are also time stealers. Socializing can be fun and rewarding to establish a wider network of friends. But doing this every night can really be a waste of time - hang over, low productively the morning after. You become irritable due to lack of sleep.

3. Lack of discipline leads to mismanagement of time. For example you are having a drink with friends and you have set your time limit. Upon reaching the time limit, stick to it even though you maybe having a great time. Don’t allow yourself a little extension - can become habitual and eat much of your time. Be definite with your time so that you can utilize it gainfully.

SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE

Gain time and energy by making your life simpler - get rid of clutter. Yearly go through your closets, garages, dresser drawers and boxes stashed in the storeroom, find out what you can get rid of.

Sort through your belongings and get rid of things you know you will never use again. Donate to local charities. Get rid of books and mgazines  that you have not read the last 3 years. With the Internet, reference materials are right at your fingertips. If you really cannot stand to give things away because it all has value, have a garage sale. When it is over, take whatever does not sell and donate it to a charity. Promise yourself you will get rid of the leftovers.

To sum up clutter - it robs valuable time from your life, takes away some of your life energy and makes you wonder how you will ever organize it all. Do not organize it all; get rid of a lot of it.  You can often save money by spending RM5 at the store than spending 3 hours looking for something you know you have but cannot find!. You end up buying the misplaced item anyway.

Get rid of what you do not want to make room for what you do want! Your stress will decrease automatically.


 START A STRESS DIARY/ JOURNAL

Often stresses flit in and out of your minds without getting the attention and focus that they deserve. A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:

•    What caused your stress (make a guess if you are unsure)
•    The levels of stress at which you operate most effectively
•    How you felt, both physically & emotionally
•    How you acted in response
•    What you did to make yourself feel better

Look At How You Currently Cope With Stress

Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress in your life.  Are your coping strategies healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Are you coping with stress in ways that compound the problem.

Unhealthy Ways Of Coping With Stress

These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but may cause more damage in the long run:


  Smoking
  Drinking too much
  Overeating or under eating
  Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer
  Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
  Using pills or drugs to relax      
  Sleeping too much
  Procrastinating
  Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
  Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)

How to Use the Tool

Stress Diaries are useful in that they gather information regularly and routinely, over a period of time. Separate common, routine stresses from those that only occur occasionally. They establish a pattern that you can analyse to extract the information that you need. Also make an entry in your diary if the stressful event is significant.

Every time you make an entry, record the following information:

    Date and time of the entry.

    Most recent stressful event experienced.
    How happy you feel now, using a subjective assessment on a scale of -10 (most unhappy) to +10 (happiest ). Write down the mood you are feeling.

    How effectively you are working now (on a scale of 0 to 10). A 0 show
     complete ineffectiveness, a 10 show the greatest effectiveness
     you have ever achieved.

    Fundamental cause of the stress (honest & objective).

You may also want to note:

    How stressed you feel now, on a subjective scale of 0 to 10. As 
     before, 0 most relaxed and 10 greatest stress ever experienced.

    Symptom you felt (e.g. “butterflies in your stomach”, anger, headache, raised pulse rate, sweaty palms, etc.).

    How well you handled the event: Did your reaction help solve the
     problem or did it inflame it?

Analyzing the Diary

•    Look at different stresses experienced during the time. List types of
     stress experienced by frequency, with most frequent stresses at the
     top of the list.

•    Prepare a 2nd list with most unpleasant stresses at the top of
     the list and least unpleasant at the bottom.

•    Looking at your lists of stresses, those at the top of each list are the
     most important for U to learn to control.

•    Working through the stresses, look at your assessments of their
     underlying causes and appraisal of how well you handled the
         stressful  event. Do these show you areas where you handled stress
        poorly and could improve your stress management skills? If so, list
        these.

•    Next, look through your diary at the situations that cause you stress.

•    List these.

•    Finally, look at how you felt when you were under stress. Look at how
     it affected your happiness and your effectiveness, understand how
     you behaved and think about how you felt.

Having analyzed your diary, should fully understand the most important and frequent sources of stress are in your life. You should appreciate the levels of stress at which you are happiest and situations that cause you stress so can be better prepared to manage them.

FINDING BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE - LIFE WHEEL


When life is busy, or all your energy is focused on a special project, it is all too easy to find yourself "off balance", not paying enough attention to important areas of your life. While you need to have drive and focus if you are going to get things done, taking this too far can lead to frustration and intense stress.

That is when it's time to take a "helicopter view" of your life, so that you can bring things back into balance.

This is where the Wheel of Life (or Life Wheel) - consider each area of your life in turn, assess what's off balance and help identify areas that need more attention.

The Wheel of Life is powerful because it gives you a vivid visual representation of the way your life is currently, compared with the way you'd ideally like it to be. It is called the "Wheel of Life" because each area of your life is mapped on a circle, like the spoke of a wheel.

Beating Self-Sabotage -  Recognizing & Overcoming It

"You can't do that!" "That's way too difficult!" "If you try, you will probably just fail anyway." These sound as if they are coming from a tyrannical and cruel person with a mission to destroy self-confidence. All too often we can be the tyrant and our target can be our self.

Negative self-talk is something we have all engaged in at some time - on a regular basis , it can lead to self-sabotage and can stop us achieving our goals & dreams. What is worse is that we usually don't recognize that it is even happening. Instead, we attribute our lack of success to inadequacy. This, in turn, strengthens the negative messages we feed ourselves and we get caught in a self-sabotaging cycle that can be very difficult to break.

The tell-tale sign that you are sabotaging your self is when you grind to a halt when you are trying to achieve your goals, for no rational reason. The skill, ability  and desire are there - it is just that something stops you moving forward. When you feel that you can't do something you should be able to do or that you shouldn't  do something even though you know deep
down that you want or need to do it - self-sabotage is at work.

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