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What is Stress?
There’s no medical definition of stress, but we all know what it’s like to feel stressed, but it’s not easy to pin down exactly what stress means. When we say things like “this is stressful” or “I’m stressed”, we might be talking about:
Situations or events that put pressure on us – for example, times where we have lots to do and think about, or don’t have much control over what happens.
Our reaction to being placed under pressure – the feelings we get when we have demands placed on us that we find difficult to cope with.
Whatever your personal definition of stress is, it’s likely that you can learn to manage your stress better by:
Managing external pressures, so stressful situations don’t seem to happen to you quite so often
Developing your emotional resilience, so you’re better at coping with tough situations when they do happen and don’t feel quite so stressed
Too much stress or too little stress prevents us from performing at our best and achieving our goals; some stress can help us perform better, e.g. think of an athlete who is about to compete or a student studying for an important exam. The stress-performance curve shows us that too little stress can cause us to feel bored. Our optimum level of stress is when we are slightly stretched, however if we push ourselves too much this can cause us to become strained and even overwhelmed and burnt out.
One of the most important factors to managing stress effectively is to recognise the early warning signs of too much stress. These early warning signs will be different for all us; for you may find you have trouble sleeping, feel more irritable or find yourself overworking. Take some time today and ask yourself this:
Q. What are my early warning signs of feeling too much stress?
Q. What is helpful to me when I feel stressed, what helps me to reduce stress during these times?
If you do not know the answers to these questions, consider talking to a loved one or a colleague you trust. They may be able to share with you what they notice in you when you seem overwhelmed by too many pressures. Also take some time to experiment with different activities to reduce stress in the moment and see what works; this could be talking to someone you trust, going for a walk or listening to music.
If you need support to manage your stress effectively, support is available; consider joining us for our ‘Learning to Relax’ course at Mind in Mid Hers which equips you with the understanding and skills needed to manage stress effectively.
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