Coping with Stress

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In the midst of Stress Awareness month, it has become a well-known fact that more people are now suffering with stress than ever before, and more and more employers have to consider this with their health and wellbeing strategy. The impact of stress is at an all-time high according to a leading industry survey that cites stress one of the main causes of long-term absence.

The important place to start when looking at stress is at yourself. You are the key in the identification, the coping mechanisms and the strategies to accept and regain control.

In a recent Health Shield survey of business owners and HR professionals, stress ranked highly on a list of issues that could affect their workforce with 88% stating that personal stress and 86% stating that workplace stress was an issue. Many employers are now taking into account sleep deprivation when they are monitoring your stress levels, as this can be a big influence on your life. So first things first, look after your initial health and wellbeing by ensuring you are getting enough sleep. Last month was National Bed Month, and we looked at the importance of getting enough sleep and the effects of sleep deprivation.

Health Shield data now shows that more than 3 in 4 females, and 2 in 3 males suffer some level of stress. Higher stress levels affect everything linked to your health and wellbeing — you might find that you are drinking more alcohol, eating less in general, eating more junk food or failing to make time to do things you enjoy. It becomes a downward spiral and you feel you have no control. Stop and take the first step to overcoming extreme stress, learning that you can take control.

When you are suffering with stress it seems like you can’t do anything to help yourself. But you can. You are in more control than you think and you just need to take charge.

Stress has much more of an impact than you will know about until it’s there and it’s caused problems in your life. Therefore, taking charge as early as possible is key and the best way you can do this is by finding out what is causing you to be stressed in the first place.

Start a journal and each time you feel stressed write down what you think caused it, how you’re feeling and have acted and how you’ve made yourself feel better. Doing this regularly will help you identify the triggers and help you to eliminate them.

How do I know if I am stressed?

There are many signs of stress and although you might not get them all, everyone deals with them in different ways. Common signs include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • A lack of interest in general life
  • Constant worry
  • Finding it hard to make a decision
  • Snapping at people and being unable to concentrate
  • Being tearful and fearful
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Shallow breathing

These are just some of the symptoms, there is no reason to be alarmed if you find you have most of them but don’t feel stressed. However, this list might have given you the nudge you need to step back and take control.

Stress comes in so many forms and is caused by so many different things. Maybe you are feeling under pressure, facing big changes or have too much or too little control over situations. Many everyday events can cause people to be stressed; marriage, pregnancy, break ups, bereavement, exams, a job, money worries. The list goes on with so many small everyday things causing many people such a lot of problems.

Professionals in stress management have come up with a theory called the 4A’s as a way of dealing with stress — Avoid, Alter, Adapt and Accept.

  • Avoid unnecessary stress. You can eliminate some stressors yourself, and it’s easier than you think.
    • Say no. Don’t take on more than you can handle.
    • Avoid stressful people. You don’t need negative energy.
    • Take control.
  • Alter the situation. If you can’t avoid it — alter it.
    • Give yourself a voice. Don’t bottle your feelings up.
    • Create a balance in your life, you need to find some sort of balance between work and play. This is a necessity.
  • Adapt to the situation.
    • Regain control by adapting to the stressful situation. View it more positively i.e. a traffic jam is not a time to stress and panic, take it as an opportunity to have some me time and listen to the radio.
    • Take some perspective. If it’s not important, it doesn’t matter, focus your energy elsewhere and don’t look for perfection.
  • Accept you can’t change everything.
    • Sometimes things are out of your control. That is OK but it is not always easy to accept that sometimes. Don’t focus on those things, focus on what you can control.

What can you do to help yourself?

  • You can move around. Don’t sit and think about all the things you are stressed about. Your mind goes into overdrive when you just sit. Pick up a hobby, dance around with the children, anything to get yourself up and about.
  • Do something you enjoy every day and make sure you make the time to do it.
  • And make sure you get enough of it.
  • The most important thing you can do is identify the triggers. Use the journal idea and you’ll soon learn to avoid those things.
  • Meet with friends or family. It is always good to have them close by, they are a great pick me up, laughing, smiling and talking are the perfect combats against stress as they produce hormones that help you relax.
  • Ensure you have your own time doing things you enjoy. This will help you handle whatever else life throws at you. Whether it’s going for a walk, working out, taking a long relaxing bath, working in the garden or reading a good book.
  • Give yourself a break. Even if it’s just a change of scenery at lunch time. Go on holiday or take a weekend away with your partner. Let go of the past and forgive yourself – everyone makes mistakes and nobody is perfect — so if you’ve made a mistake, take back control, forgive yourself and move on.

If you still think that you need additional help, speak to a GP — either your own or through Health Shield — and they may be able to send you for specialised counselling. Otherwise, if you a member of a Health Shield Health Cash Plan, check your plan as you may have access to some face-to-face counselling sessions under our mywellness benefit, or you might want to try some of our health and wellbeing techniques to help you relax. Log into the Members’ Area now to check your plan and access mywellness.


Health Shield Insights