What do you know about stress? How do you spot it in yourself so that you know what to do to relax?
There are two types of stress, as my A level psychology group are in the process of finding out. We all know acute stress when it gets us because our heart races, our breathing speeds up, we sweat, we get a funny tummy, we feel sick. This acute stress is in response to an immediate threat, or perceived threat such as a car pulling out in front of us, a dog chasing us or being shouted. Usually the stressor passes and we relax and all is well.
Chronic stress is the killer as there is no 'relax'. Chronic stress is the one which catches me out and it's caught up with me this last week. It's so easy for people who do a lot, to just get on with doing more.
One friend has been juggling looking after a youngster with doing hospital runs for critically ill aged relative. This is, of course, on top of doing the usual stuff around the house, going to work and caring for the family.
Another friend has been under constant pressure to perform at work.
Another friend is dealing with a teenager who is depressed and off school.
None of them realise they're stressed until it's at it's height and they're nearly or at breaking point and they're off work, not sleeping, crying or exhausted all the time.
I bet you too just take on one thing, then another and another and I bet you take it all in your stride like my friends do. I bet you help other people out, listen to them and support them. I bet you work hard and look after your close people well.
I bet you have days where you are so tired that you go to bed at 8, or when you find yourself crying, or snapping at people.
- How do you notice you're stressed?
- What are your signs and symptoms?
- On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is super screaming stressed and 1 is completely chilled, what number would you give yourself now?
So...what can we do about chronic stress?
The first thing to ask yourself is can you control the stressors, ie the things which are causing you stress?
Some stressors you can't control so you have to accept them and just get on with it.
Some stressors you can't avoid, but you can adapt to by changing how you do them and getting help and support.
Some stressors you can avoid.
- What stressors can you avoid?
- Which can you adapt to?
For the stressors I can't avoid, I do have some cognitive tools which I use. I avoid awfulizing and catastrophising (Albert Ellis). I tell myself that in a month, or a year's time things will have changed and this reminds me that nothing stays the same for long and that this too will pass.
I focus on what is going well and what I appreciate.
- How can you reassure yourself?
- How will this seem in a month? A year?
- How can you rationalise rather than catastrophise?
- What is going well and what do you appreciate?
When we are stressed we expect other people to look after us and forget to look after ourselves.
- How can you be kind to yourself?
- How can you take care of yourself?
- How can you be a really kind, loving caring parent to yourself?
- Notice all that you are doing and coping with and give yourself a pat on the back
The main thing is to take action, whether it is in avoiding stressors or getting support in dealing with them. Just knowing that you have choices can make all the difference.