From the BC Crisis Center:
Stress is simply a reaction, either real or imagined, to situations, events or people. We may experience symptoms of anxiety, worry, and withdrawal when we are suffering from stress. We may even start taking actions to escape the stressful feelings.
The most common trigger of stress is some kind of loss – the loss of, or change in a relationship, the loss of another person, or the loss of stability associated with change.
The best way to cope with your feelings is to communicate with another person.
Am I stressed?
Signals of stress may include changes in your body, actions, emotions & thinking. Being able to identify these changes may help you better manage your stress:
- Changes in your body
- Disturbed sleep
- Appetite changes
- Changes in your actions
- Increased use of alcohol & drugs
- Withdrawing from others
- Increased smoking
- Non-stop talking
- Short tempered
- Changes in your emotions
- Worried & confused
- Anger & irritability
- Feeling blue & sad
- Hopeless or suicidal
- Changes in your thinking
- Trouble concentrating
- Lost self-confidence
- Lapses of memory
- Negative self-talk
- Negative attitude
- Poor judgment
Once we are aware that we are stressed, we can start to identify the specific things that may be causing us stress. Sometimes it will be things that we can control like getting some exercise or getting an assignment done.
It is also important to recognize that no one is in control of all the aspects of their lives that can create stress. Some examples of this may be having to move or parents divorcing.
There are some practical coping strategies you can use to help decrease your level of stress.
To help decrease our stress, we can first learn to change what we say to ourselves – and the way we think about ourselves. This is accomplished by shifting our words and thoughts from what we call ‘negative self-talk’ to ‘positive self-talk’.
The following are a few examples of how we may turn negative comments into positive ones:
- Negative: To be a worthwhile person, I have to be good at everything.
Positive: Just who I am makes me worthwhile.
- Negative: Everyone has to like me, or else I’m not okay.
Positive: I’m okay just the way I am.
- Negative: Every problem has to have the perfect solution and if it doesn’t it’s really bad.
Positive: There are many solutions out there I just have to find the right one.
- Negative: People never change.
Positive: People change.
- Negative: I can’t help how I feel & I’m feeling miserable.
Positive: I can learn to control my feelings.
- Negative: I need to worry about everything that could go wrong.
Positive: I can learn to concentrate on the present moment & relax.
Long Term Stress Management Techniques
Finding ways to increase our health helps us decrease our stress. Simple ways to do this are:
- Get more adequate sleep
- Exercise more
- Eat healthy food
- Laugh more
- Apply positive self-talk and positive attitudes
- Talk to people you trust
- Work at managing your time
- Make an effort to relax
Make a Stress Plan
Everyone needs a certain amount of stress in order to get things done, but sometimes it can become too much. When you recognize that you are stressed, you can feel better by using a stress plan like this one:
- Identify the stressful situation: What is upsetting you? (School, work, relationships, family, self…)
- Identify your signals: How are you feeling about the situation? (What changes in my body, thoughts, emotions & actions do I observe?)
- Brainstorm your options: What can you do?
- CHANGE THE SITUATION: can I say no? can I assert my needs?…
- CHANGE HOW YOU REACT TO THE SITUATION: exercise, sleep, relax, accept support, make time to have fun, laugh…
- CHANGE HOW YOU LOOK AT THE SITUATION: use positive self-talk, look for hidden opportunities in negative situations, and look into the future past the problem…
Most people, either knowingly or unknowingly, use negative coping strategies to cope with stress. These are strategies that may temporarily provide stress relief, but in the long term may increase the amount of stress we experience. A few examples of these are:
- Skipping out
- Video games
- Hurting others or yourself
- Throwing objects
- Sugar & caffeine
- Drugs & alcohol
Negative coping strategies are our common responses to stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Everyone uses these sometimes, and (except for violence) that’s ok. However, if you only use negative coping strategies, you can actually end up causing yourself more stress in the long run.
That’s why it’s important to use coping strategies that will give you long term relief from the effects of stress and help you to find solutions to the problems that are causing the stress.
Learning to manage our stress well can improve many aspects of our lives. For example, stress management can give us:
- Increased ability to deal with problems
- Increased productivity
- Stronger relationships
- Increased energy
- Improved health
- Higher self-esteem
These tools and skills will help us to get better at dealing with stress, but there is no such thing as a stress-free life. Part of life is dealing with stress. When you are really stressed out, here are a few more things to think about:
- You are here. Accept where you are and go from there.
- Don’t try to please everyone. Leave something for yourself.
- Stress can be an energizer. Harness that energy and focus on a task.
- Be active. Look for ways you can start to make some plans, or set some goals for yourself.
- Laugh. Look for opportunities to laugh – laughter is great therapy.
- Take charge of yourself. You can’t control other people’s actions.
- Relax. Create quiet time, meditate, listen to music.
- Give yourself a break. Pause and do something for yourself.
- You are not alone. Talk to someone you trust or talk to us at the Crisis Centre.
Stress is a normal reaction and a part of life. When we have a large number of stressful events in our lives (good or bad), we can become overwhelmed – and these feelings can create problems.
The following are some statistics on stress that help to illustrate just how stressful stress can be!
- 25% of youth in BC said a relationship break-up was a big stressor. Other stresses were academic problems, relocation of residence, death of a friend or family member, suicide of a friend or family member, and illness of a friend or family member.
- 65% of students do not feel rested after a full night’s sleep.
- Approximately 5% of males and 10% of females said they were emotionally distressed in the past month.
- Stress related disability claims are estimated to increase by 50% in the next decade.
- In 1997, Canadians cited stress and mental anxiety as reasons for growing levels of absenteeism more often than physical illness.
- 40% of Canadians identify worry and anxiety as their principal de-motivators at work and school.
- In total, the cost of stress in the North American economy is between 150 and 300 billion dollars per year.