Creating a stress management strategy
Rather than waiting until you’re stressed out to take action (reactive) to reduce your stress, I recommend a proactive approach. To be proactive you need a stress management strategy for keeping your stress at a comfortable level and avoiding chronic ‘toxic’ stress. In this post I explain why a strategy is needed and what a typical strategy would look like.
The stress response evolved to enable a rapid, short-lived response to a threat
The stress response evolved to enable a rapid, short-lived response to a threat. It’s designed to switch on quickly, and to switch off once the threat has passed. When switched on our body gets an immediate burst of stress hormones of which adrenaline and cortisol are the most well-known.
There’s a difference between an acute burst of stress hormones, i.e., moderate levels over a short period of time, and a chronic exposure, i.e., experiencing high levels of cortisol over a longer period of time. These two types of exposure have very different, and in most cases diametrically opposite, effects. Moderate levels of cortisol have beneficial effects on our cognitive and physical performance, while high levels impair them.
When people talk about ‘toxic’ or ‘bad’ stress what they’re referring to is chronic stress (see last week's blog). Chronic stress is very much what it sounds like – a prolonged experience of stress.
Experiencing some stress is unavoidable
Experiencing some stress is unavoidable. We’re going to experience acute stress at some point during a typical day, and often more than once, because our mind is very good at perceiving threats (real or imagined).
Threats don’t have to be of the life or death kind, in fact most of the threats we perceive each day could be described as low level threats, such as long work-commute times, arguements, lack of time for social interactions, and unexpected bills.
Our stress response is activated in response to each of these perceived threats and with each activation, stress hormones are pumped into our body. In the absence of adequate rest and recovery periods, these stress hormones accumulate, and we our experience of stress is constant.
Our body has a limit on how much stress hormones it can cope with
Our body has a limit on how much stress hormones it can cope with and still function normally. When we pass our limit, or tolerance level, our physical and mental well-being is affected.
Long term exposure to stress hormones, and in particular cortisol, wreaks havoc on our cardiovascular system and suppresses our immune system. A degraded immune system exposes us increased likelihood of poor health. We experience health issues, exhaustion, burn-out, anxiety, depression, obsessive behaviours.
Awareness that we are experiencing stress is key
If you are unaware of the signals that you are experiencing stress, or you choose to ignore the signals, then chronic stress can creep up on you. The first clues that you are experiencing chronic stress might be a high blood pressure reading, an illness you can’t shake off, or an ongoing physical ailment.
So to avoid chronic stress we need to regularly tune into our body to pick up any physical symptoms that are a signal that we’re experiencing stress, such as muscle tension, feeling jumpy or edgy.
With awareness we can take action to manage our STRESS process
Once we are aware that we are experiencing stress we can be proactive and take action to manage our STRESS process with the aim of intervening rapidly and effectively to switch off the stress response and reduce our stress level.
Creating your stress management strategy
We can intervene at any one of the six steps of The STRESS Process, but for the best outcome we want to intervene at as many steps as possible. By developing our own personal stress management strategy we can keep our stress under control and avoid chronic 'toxic' stress.
Here’s an example of a simple stress management strategy:
|STRESS Process||Simple Anxiety Management Strategy|
|Stimuli||Avoid the stimuli|
|Threat Detection||Mindfulness practice|
|Risk Appraisal||Mind-set shift|
|Emotional Arousal||Calm resource anchor|
|Stress Response||Diaphramatic Breathing|
Helping people to regain control over their stress and anxiety is my passion. If you'd like to explore how I can help you develop and implement your tailored stress management strategy, contact me today on 021 056 8389 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Book Now button below.
Wishing you a calm and peaceful week.
REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress, overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of solution focused coaching, neuroscience, positive psychology and clinical hypnosis.