I woke up this morning feeling a little jaded and faced the day’s work with less than my usual enthusiasm. This was more than a case of ‘Mondayitis’ – it was more like a general sense of exhaustion.

I suppose that I am lucky in that I have caring friends and family who are able to tactfully point out that I have not been my usual lighthearted self recently; my fuse, as they say, is very short at present, and I have been known to explode at the slightest touch of fire!

So I did some self-analysis on the way to work – and life has indeed been a little fraught recently with the husband’s brush with cancer and the complete uplift and relocation of the family home and contents. Either is enough to cause stress, but both together is a recipe for distress.

I think the problem is acerbated by the fact that stress has become such a normal part of everyday living. We cannot escape the factors if we live in the real world, and as life becomes more and more hectic; as more and more things change around us; as more of our goals become unreachable then we can only anticipate that our stress levels will rise.

Already stress has a major effect on our health and happiness; it has been conservatively estimated that 71% of the population exhibit some symptoms of stress. In the UK a recent survey has found that 90% of all visits to the GP’s surgery were for stress related complaints. As the global financial condition continues and threatens to worsen then these figures can only get worse.

Stress is caused by physical activity in your nervous system in response to events that frighten or disturb your sense of balance. But not all stress is harmful, the physical changes created by the nervous system can also help you to stay focused, become more energetic and more determined to succeed. In emergencies it can be the stress that saves you life – the extra adrenaline that helps you slam on the brakes and take evasive action in time to avoid hitting the other car.

Stress is also the thing that puts the energy and enthusiasm into what you do. If you have to give a presentation at work, it is the bodily response to the stress that will charge your presentation with that charisma. But like all good things, the trick is moderation. Too much chocolate is not good for you, and neither is too much stress. Overindulgence can lead to problems.

But each of us is different and each of us has a personal level at which stress stops being helpful and becomes a problem. Each one of us has a finite source of energy and once we have used that up we are running on empty. And the body doesn’t differentiate between physical and physiological causes of stress. While we can probably immediately recognize the causes of physical stress we may not be equally aware of the damage done by non-physical causes.

The effects on the body will be the same if you are faced with physical danger or if you are worrying over unpaid bills. An argument with your best friend will affect you just as much as if you have to dodge falling branches in a storm.

In fact, because these non-physical causes of stress can be so much a part of daily living we may not even be aware of their effect on us. They can be the sleeping danger, slowly building up until they break over us, with headaches, loss of energy, lack of sleep and all the other signs that we are now officially a sufferer of stress.

So stress is a part of our lives, and we really should be familiar with it and come to grips with how we can moderate its effects. There are some things that we can review that can help us lift our tolerance to stress.

First should be our network of friends and family. As I said it was my network that first alerted me to the signs I was showing of stress in my life. Being able to unburden ourselves to supportive and understanding friends and family members means the more easily we will be able to cope with the stress in our life.

Then we need to keep our confidence up, our confidence that we can influence the outcome and overcome the challenges. We need to create a modicum of control over our choices and decisions, as well as our attitude. Positive action and thinking can help lessen our stress levels. A good sense of humour is also a great thing to bring down those stress levels.

Being able to apply some quick and basic relaxation techniques for those times when the going gets tough. When the emotional temperature is rising we need to be able to bring it under control to lighten the load. I swear by two or three slow deep calming breaths to reduce the possibility of the swearing becoming public! It helps to induce a feeling of calm in an explosive situation and I can feel my pulse rate slow and my emotions settling and a sense of control returning. There are many other relaxation techniques that can be learned as well.

Recognising that stress is a part of our lives means that we need to be aware of when it is becoming a problem. I recognized that this morning and after I had unburdened myself to my colleagues, filled up on second breakfast, and put into practice some deep breathing exercises and meditation techniques I am feeling more alert and more aware of the fact that stress can sometimes sneak up on you, but never without some warning.

So as soon as this is posted, I am going to take a cup of tea and a shoulder to wail on to Trish, as she battles the stress of still having no kitchen due to renovations that seem to be lasting for an eternity in a house that obviously has been devastated by an unpublicised hurricane which whirled through it about two months ago.

She’s a little stressed out at the moment.

Michele @ Trischel

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