Contributed By Doctor Harmony, Psychiatrist
Modern society seems to be faster paced, with more demands on us and extra pressures compared to earlier generations. Many of us are time-pressured, financially-stretched or feel socially disconnected and alone. Finding work or maintaining job satisfaction in a competitive market may be added pressures. This could be in addition to family conflict, relationship issues, concerns about our children or health problems. The list of external or life pressures is endless.
What is often overlooked is the pressure that we have placed on ourselves, or the internal stress. This can include expectations we have about our achievements, how people treat us, how life should be, how we should look, and standards that others should reach.
If we are struggling to cope with the stress we are under, then this can have further negative effects on our lives, such as arguments, job loss, health problems, sleep disturbance and weight gain from comfort-eating. Also our children may sense our stress and react by withdrawing from us or acting out with behavioural changes. These effects then cause further stress in our lives.
Stress can lead to depression, anxiety or eating disorders. It is also associated with physical illness or medically-unexplainable symptoms despite numerous investigations. Stress can either trigger illnesses, increase severity of existing illnesses or cause recurrence of illnesses. Stress-related illnesses include irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines and headaches, particular sexual problems, polymyalgia rheumatica, chronic pain conditions, eczema, asthma, cancer, heartburn, ischaemic heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes...The list goes on.
Have I convinced you enough about the importance of addressing stress in our lives? Mind you, I am not advocating that all stress needs to be eliminated in our lives. In fact, we all need a bit of stress to keep us going. Can you imagine going for a job interview or exam without preparing for it, as we do not feel nervous? A small amount of anxiety and stress is necessary to make us perform at our best. Problems only arise when we are struggling to cope with the stress or if the amount of stress is excessive. Remember, we all have a breaking point once a certain amount of pressure and stress are experienced. Each one of us has different breaking points though, as we have individual coping styles, personalities and backgrounds.
We may not be able to control what happens to us, such as illness or death but we can change the way we deal with it or minimise the internal pressure. So, if we change the way we think or learn to deal with the internal and external pressures, we can feel less burdened, more at peace and become physically healthier. It is about changing our habits in the way we act and think long-term. This could mean being kinder to ourselves and others (with our expectations), learning to forgive and accepting situations that we cannot change rather than getting resentful, frustrated and angry. It might mean delegating more to others, being honest with people when we cannot oblige them and living within our limitations (such as if we have pain or illness). Accept that some days will be better than others.
If you would like to find out more ways of dealing with stress, check out series one of my Building Resilience books series by Click go to Doctor Harmony's Website. Although it is marketed as children’s picture books, it has great tips for children and adults alike.