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Can Stress Be Good For You?

What is stress?
Stress is the state that you experience when you perceive that you cannot adequately cope with the demands being made on you. You feel under pressure and don't have the physical and mental reserves to cope. This may be because you don't know how to cope, don't have the resources to cope or are in poor health.

What causes stress?
Many different situations can cause stress, ranging from a series of minor irritations to major upheavals, including work pressures, personal problems, financial worries, health concerns, perfectionism, procrastination, poor time management, putting too much pressure on yourself, low self confidence, negative self talk or not looking after yourself. Sometimes there is no obvious cause of stress at all.

What are the symptoms of stress?
How you cope with stress lies in how you relate to yourself as each situation arises. If you cannot cope, you experience a build up of tensions that can affect you physically, psychologically and emotionally. Symptoms of stress can include:
-Physical signs such as chest pains, increased blood pressure, heart racing, palpitations, panic attacks, constant tiredness, cramps or muscle spasms, food, cigarette or drug cravings, dizziness, lack of appetite, nail biting, headaches, stomach disorders, feeling sick, frequent crying, restlessness, sleeping problems and a tendency to perspire. The body produces 'fight or flight' chemicals which prepare the body for an emergency. Cortisol releases fat and sugar into your body and reduces the efficiency of the immune system. Long term these can lead to high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks and other major health problems.
-Emotional symptoms such as feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, psychosomatic illnesses and depression. Thoughts may become jumbled and confused and you may become preoccupied with problems.
-Behavioural changes such as being withdrawn, indecisive, inflexible, inability to sleep, increased sensitivity to criticism, irritability, tearfulness and aggression, as well as inability to concentrate.

How can you manage stress?
Managing stress is one of the areas that my clients often ask for support with. Stress management involves recognising the symptoms of stress, identifying the causes of stress, taking action to address the causes and thereby reduce the symptoms and where necessary, taking interim steps to relieve the symptoms until the underlying causes have been addressed. There are many different ways of managing stress, including:
-Time management, including goal and action planning, delegation, controlling perfectionism and overcoming procrastination.
-Assertiveness, including recognising behaviours, dealing with criticism and with anger and learning how to say no.
-Rational thinking, including positive thinking, challenging distorted thinking and irrational beliefs.
-Self care, including relaxation, having fun, learning to express yourself, understanding yourself, exercise, healthy eating, a good work-life balance, developing hobbies and interests, expanding your circle of friends and looking after your mental health.
-Medical, including various types of medication.
-Stress management therapies, including psychotherapy, counselling, massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and many more.

Can stress be good for you?
Stress is not necessarily bad or dangerous and if you can manage stress in a positive way you can keep on top of things. You will then see stress as invigorating and challenging rather than something to fear. As stress levels increase we move from a state of low performance to a state of peak performance, but as stress levels continue to increase our performance decreases again, as we become overloaded and reach a state of exhaustion and burnout. It is therefore a delicate balance and different for each person. However if stress is well managed it can be beneficial.

Overall, there are positive and negative aspects to stress and it is important to find the right balance in your life. By following good stress management strategies you can enjoy the beneficial and positive side of stress.

Author: Liz Makin
Published: April 2007

Makin It Happen has a range of personal development online courses to purchase, created by Liz Makin, including communication, resilience, time management, stress management and coaching. Liz Makin also provides personalised business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services to business owners, directors, managers and professionals.


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