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A simple definition of stress is the way you react physically and emotionally to change. Like change, stress can be either positive or negative. Stress may be the sense of concentration you feel when faced with a new and challenging situation, or it may be the vague sense of anxiety you feel after "one of those days!" In any case, you can learn to manage stress so that you can be in control.
Stress is caused by trying to do too many things yourself. It occurs when you run out of time and must carry things over. This is followed by knowing that the "to do's" that get carried over to the next day will be added to a whole new list of "things to do." You then feel boxed in with no escape and no alternatives. To minimize stress - handle what you can and delegate what you cannot!
In its positive aspect, stress can help you to concentrate, focus, perform, and can often help you to reach peak efficiency. Many people, in fact, do their best work when under pressure. Then, when the challenge has been met, they take the time to relax and enjoy their achievements. This relaxation response allows them to build up the physical and emotional reserves to meet the next challenge, and is one of the key elements of positive stress.
Stress becomes negative when you stay "geared-up" and don't (or can't) relax after meeting the challenge. In today's world, where many situations can "push our buttons," it's no wonder. For some people, stress becomes a way of life. Unfortunately, when stress becomes a constant, ongoing cycle, your health and well-being can suffer. Negative stress has been linked with many physical ailments - from tension headaches to heart attacks. The good news is that with proper management, stress need not be hazardous to your health. Don't forget that your stress level impacts not only you, but also those who are around you and love and care for you.
Managing Stress - Awareness
In order to manage stress, it's helpful to know what causes your stress and how you feel when under stress. Try to identify the situations in your life that make you feel tense. Then, "listen" to your body for signs such as headaches, stomach upsets, tensed muscles, clenched teeth, cold or clammy hands, or other symptoms that are indicators that you're under stress.
As you know, stress can be positive when it is balanced with relaxation. However, when stress is constant and unrelieved, it can become negative and even a destructive force. You can break the cycle of negative stress by learning ways to help yourself relax. By taking the time to practice simple relaxation techniques on a regular basis, you can give yourself a chance to unwind and get ready for life's next challenge.
Positive Attitude and Lifestyle
A positive attitude and lifestyle are key elements of stress management. Since stress is both an emotional and physical reaction to change, the better you feel (in body and mind), the better you'll be able to deal with the everyday stress in your life. When you learn to think positively, exercise, eat well, and rest regularly, you'll be taking care of the most important person you know - you!
Your stress response is axiomatic, like blinking your eyes. When faced with a challenging situation, your muscles tense, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, you may perspire more, and you may even notice a gripping sensation in your stomach. You may also feel more mentally alert and focused. This stress response prepares your body to meet an immediate, recognizable challenge.
When stress is positive, your body automatically relaxes after you've handled the situation that caused your stress response. Your muscles relax and your heart rate, blood pressure, and other physical functions all return to their normal, pre-stressed state. This relaxation response is the most important aspect of positive stress because it allows you to rest and gather the physical and emotional energy you need to meet the next challenge. Positive stress is a series of heightened alert and relaxation responses that help you deal with the changes and challenges of daily life.
With negative stress, there's no true relaxation between one stress "crisis" and the next. When your body remains geared up, physical and emotional strain can result. Left uncontrolled, negative stress can lead to high blood pressure, ulcers, migraines, heart attacks - and worse. Fortunately, you can stop the cycle of negative stress by becoming aware of your stress and how you react to it, by practicing relaxation techniques, and by developing a positive attitude and lifestyle.
Developing a Positive Attitude:
Developing a Positive Lifestyle:
Proper planning and goal setting gives you a sense of stability during the workday. Delegation alleviates some of the responsibility you're carrying. Train employees not to not to bring problems - bring solutions! And, take time out for personal pursuits with the family, at meetings, hobbies, etc.
NOTE: A closely related topic to Stress is Crisis Management (#15). Be sure to review that and other sections, such as Planning & Organizing (#26), Procrastination (#28), and Time Management (#34), in this series of articles on Business Management.
Mike Holt's Comment: This newsletter was extracted from my Business Management and Management Skills' Workbook. Watch for our next newsletter and, as always, we encourage your comments and feedback. Send us your real-life experiences. Please respond to Barbara@mikeholt.com.
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