Does your life get crazy? Do you feel stress and overwhelmed to juggle a multitude of demands? If you answered yes… you are not alone. And it is no surprise, with mobile devices making us reachable 24×7, we are overloaded with information, and constantly adjusting to changes. Life is not simple or predictable. We are living longer, can’t count on continuity of employment and the costs keep rising. It is amazing that we function at all.
Stress is a normal part of life; we all have different stressors. Understanding our stressors, lets us harness the energy and anxiety, and use it constructively.
There is a positive side to stress
It strengthens the connection between neurons in your brain, which improves memory and attention span. It creates a heightened sense of awareness to help your body respond rapidly. Some people produce their best work when they are under pressure. There is good stress, ‘eustress’; which is related to positive situations like starting a new job or going on a roller coaster ride.
Good stress keeps us motivated, excited and happy. But there is also negative stress, ‘distress’ when a person feels unable to perform or to cope with a situation. Whether it’s for a position or negative situation being stressed for an extended time can have negative health effects.
Stressors and reactions to stress tend to differ based on gender
Women stress more about managing relationships and finding answers, while men focus on winning. In stressful situations, women exhibit “tend and befriend” behavior, attempting to understand other perspectives. Women tend to talk when they are stressed. In stressful situations, women tend to feel nervous, want to cry, or lack energy, while men may have trouble sleeping or feel anger and irritability. Men experience a ‘fight or flight’ response, which makes them more prone to take on challenges and competitions. Women are more likely to report depression, while men may suffer in silence and experience stress-related medical disorders.
Because men perceive depression as a weakness, they may compensate with alcohol, or refocus the energy externally. These differences may make it difficult to recognize the symptoms of stress in other people. Studies suggest that women are twice as likely to suffer from severe stress and anxiety as men. Since women tend to be more communicative than men the results may be skewed due to women rating their level of stress higher than men.
Deal with it!
Mindfulness practices such as meditation have been shown to reduce stress, boost our memory, heighten mood and increase self-awareness. Both male and female meditators display changes in different regions of the brain structure involved in learning, memory, and emotion. Women tend to become more optimistic after meditation, which may reflect their tendency to ruminate over issues. While men who tend to ‘man up’ and repress their feelings, reported less benefit from meditation. However, men showed improvements in self-compassion as well as in not judging and not reacting.
Build programs to fit
Finding the right way to relax is different for each of us. And while there are no simple one-size-fits-all solutions, there are common themes to consider. People who are more in touch with their emotions are attracted by the concept of mindfulness, which involves being present in the moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensation.
People who suppress emotions may be attracted to a program in leadership or performance training, focused on improving their executive presence. While they may view admitting stress to be a sign of weakness, the ability to better control their emotions can be a way to improve their career trajectory.
Take control of your stress
Some effective ways you can get your stress under control:
- Try physical activity to reduce the tension in your muscles. This can include deep breathing techniques, progressive muscle relaxation which involves tensing and relaxing muscle groups or exercise. These techniques distance you from the situation which provides perspective.
- Focus on what’s happening right now. Live in the present rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
- Control your thoughts by reframing the situation in a positive light. This helps to avoid blowing a situation out of proportion.
Understand what causes you to be stressed and find strategies to deal with them effectively. You can watch TV as a way to relax, but you need to deal with your stressors, ignoring them does not reduce your level of stress. I found writing allows me to deal with issues on an intellectual basis and walking/talking as a way to allow my thoughts to flow. The answers are often simpler than the questions. Refocus on the positives, face your stressors and let that energy propel you to greatness!