Resolution with a Purpose - Week 9 - Stress

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Its not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.
-Hans Selye


There has been no definition of stress that everyone accepts. Therefore, it's difficult to measure stress if there is no agreement on what the definition of stress should be.

Probably the most common is, "physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension." Another popular definition of stress is "a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize."

Most people consider the definition to be something that causes distress. However, stress is not always harmful since increased stress results in increased productivity. A definition should also embrace this type of healthy stress.

Let's go with "the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change."

Sources of Stress

  1. Your environment bombards you with physical and mental stressors. You must endure weather, pollen, noise, traffic, and air pollution.
  2. You also must cope with social stressors such as demands for your time and attention, meetings, deadlines, presentations, interpersonal conflicts, financial problems, and relationships.
  3. Another source of stress is physiological. The rapid growth of adolescence; the changes menopause causes in women; lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and inadequate sleep; illness, injury, and aging. Your physiological reaction to environmental and social stress will also add symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, stomach upset, anxiety, and depression.
  4. Your thoughts are the last category of stressors. Your brain interprets complex changes in environment and body and determines when to turn on the 'stress response.' How you interpret and label your present experience and what you predict for your future can serve either to relax or to stress you.

    Eustress vs. Distress


    Stress is not always a 'bad' thing. Stress is subjective, so something that is stressful for you may not be stressful for someone else. Stress can motivate us to change habits and move us closer to our goals and dreams. If we felt no stress, we would not be compelled to act in ways that bring about conscious and meaningful change.



    Just a reminder that S.P.A.C.E. (Sleep, Presence, Activity, Creativity, Eating) have a major influence on your view of and response to stress. The major benefit to embracing S.P.A.C.E. is increased energy and willpower. With these increases we have a more positive view of potential stressors and will give us the willpower to respond appropriately. Review previous Resolution with a Purpose editions to gain skills and tips.

    CLICK HERE to access a Stress Assessment

    Self-Esteem and Stress

    How people feel about themselves and others, and their perceptions of the stressors in their lives, are parts of stress. Ability to deal with stress often hinges on impressions of how detrimental a stressor is and how adequately resources can deal with the situation. How much stress people feel themselves experiencing is closely associated with their sense of self-esteem. The most influential factor in determining response to stress may be people's perceptions of themselves.

    Guidelines for Dealing with Stress

    • Schedule time effectively. Practice good time management techniques by using time wisely. This means taking time out for yourself every day and scheduling work when you are usually at your peak ability.
    • Set priorities. Know what is important to you. Do not attempt to work on four or five projects simultaneously. Keep your efforts focused on one or two major items.
    • Establish realistic goals. Goals must be achievable. Do not establish impossible expectations and then become frustrated when they are not accomplished as quickly as you would like. Write down long-range goals and then establish checks for keeping yourself on track and monitoring progress. Short-term goals help you see how you are moving toward your goal and provide rewards as you advance toward success.
    • See yourself as achieving the goals. Visualize yourself as being successful. Go over in your mind what it will look like to accomplish a goal.
    • Give yourself a break. Take time every day to exercise and relax.

    Relaxation Techniques

    • Deep Breathing - This is the most basic technique used in relaxation and is often the foundation for other methods. This can be done anywhere and anytime. Completely fill the lungs when breathing, so that your abdomen expands outward. Exhale slowly through the mouth. Repeat this cycle several times and then rest quietly for 3 to 5 minutes.
    • Progressive Muscle Relaxation - This creates awareness of muscle tension and a relaxed state. Begin with tensing a muscle group and notice how the tension feels. Next, make a conscious effort to relax the tension and notice that feeling. Lastly, concentrate on the differences between the two sensations. Begin at the head and work your way down your body.
    • Autogenics - The use of self-suggestion to produce a relaxation response. Begin with a deep breath and a conscious effort to relax. Repeat the phrase "I am completely calm and relaxed." Continue with similar phrases that carry a calming message. End the session by thinking, "I am refreshed and alert."
    • Massage Therapy - Research shows that massage can promote physical relaxation and well-being.
    • Music - A strong beat and rhythmic music instill in almost all people of any age the desire to respond by moving or dancing. Quiet music soothes by causing people to breathe more deeply, stilling turbulent emotions, reducing metabolic response, and calming the autonomic nervous system.
    • Humor - Laughter is a powerful stress-reducing agent. A deep laugh temporarily raises pulse rate and blood pressure and tenses the muscles. After a good laugh, however, pulse rate and blood pressure go down and the muscles become more relaxed.
    • Time Management - By effectively using time, you can eliminate a great deal of stress. Good time management, including appropriate prioritizing, scheduling, and completing personal responsibilities, can contribute to feelings of personal satisfaction.