How are you Coping with Stress? Take the Stress Index Test.

man lying down with stress sticky notes all over his face and around him

Coping with Stress

What is Stress?

Stress is part of life. Antibiotics can’t touch it. The microscope can’t spot it. It is rapidly spreading and almost everybody’s feeling the effect. A death in the family, the birth of a baby, moving, taking a vacation, getting a job promotion, arguing … all of these common occurrences are stressful. Since stress cannot be excised from the life experience, it is imperative to learn how to deal with it.

Although we all talk about stress, it often is not clear what stress is really about. It seems that stress is the “hot” word these days. Most people seem to agree that these are high-pressure times. Employees complain of being burned out, used up or overloaded.
Many of us are just plain tired, tired of ever going change, sick of ambiguity and uncertainty. We just wish that change would go way, or at least slow down. When it does not, we look round for someone to blame or for someone we feel should be responsible for causing stress.

What does Research say

Research shows that everyone sees situations differently and each person has different coping skills. It is not necessarily the nature of the stressor that drives people to dizzying heights of fist-clenching, jaw-grinding, cold-sweating states of stress and panic. The key factor is one’s response to a stressful situation. Different people respond differently to stressors.

One person may calmly face moving day, while another person (in the exact same situation) might be totally wiped out by the stress that moving induces. So the ability to manage the stressors that bombard us daily is of the utmost importance.

Also not all situations that are labelled “stressful” are harmful. Being promoted, changing careers or moving to a new office or home may not be perceived as threatening.

However, we may feel that situations are stressful because we are not adequately prepared to deal with them.

Some situations in life are stress-provoking, but it is our thoughts about situations that determine whether they are a problem or not to us.

However, there is one area experts feel will usually cause negative stress and that lack of control over one’s job or workplace. This is the leading cause of stress more than hours of work or one’s responsibility on the job.

Stress manifests itself physically.

When facing a stressor, your body responds by switching into a ‘fight or flight’ mode. Physiologically, your body is ready to deal with the perceived danger (the stressor). Your blood pressure goes up; heart and respiration rate increases and hormones are released such as adrenaline. The muscles become tensed (some people clench their jaw); headaches, back pain, stomach aches (ulcers become exacerbated), bad skin, and the inability to concentrate may plague your day. Your extremities become cold as blood is kept in the central part of the body. The immune system is weakened (since your body is concentrating on dealing with the stressor), and you become very susceptible to colds, flues, cold sores, cankers, etc. Stress erodes sexual function also. Evidently, stress is a very real and potentially uncomfortable component of life.

While stress can be both good and bad, on average Canadians say 47 percent of the stress they face is of the bad variety. According to Statistics Canada, 23 per cent of people over the age of 15 report that most days are “quite a bit” or “extremely” stressful, and that number rises to 30 per cent among the 35 to 54 age group.

What is Your Stress Index?

Stress can be difficult to understand. The emotional chaos it causes can make our daily lives miserable. It can also decrease our physical health, sometimes drastically. Strangely, we are not always aware that we are under stress. The habits, attitudes and signs that can alert us to problems may be hard to recognize because they have become so familiar. How high is your Stress Index? Find out by scoring your answers to the questions below.

WHAT YOUR SCORE MEANS…

1-6: There are few hassles in your life. Make sure, though, that you are not trying so hard to avoid problems that you shy away from challenges.
7 – 13: You’ve got your life in fairly good control. Work on the choices and habits that could still be causing you some unnecessary stress in your life.

14 – 20: You’re approaching the danger zone. You may well be suffering stress-related symptoms, and your relationships could be strained. Think carefully about the choices you’ve made and take relaxation breaks every day.

Above 20: Emergency! You must stop now, re-think how you are living, change your attitudes and pay careful attention to diet, exercise and relaxation.
CMHA National website

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Are Your Beliefs and Attitudes Holding You Back?

10 day old baby brown elephant, standing with front foot up

By Monika B. Jensen, Ph.D

Some years ago, when my husband Kurt and I were in Thailand on an elephant safari, we had the exceptional privilege of meeting a baby elephant who was only 10 days old.

She was happily running close beside her mother, who was watching carefully over her curious baby. She would come up to us, put her trunk in our pockets then run back to her mother. Only to repeat her adventure again within a few minutes. We were able to touch her and play with her under her mother’s watchful eye.

What I found surprising was that the mother elephant only had a short small rope tied to her front ankle.

I was amazed at how only a small rope tied to her front ankle with no chains or fences or cages was holding such a huge creature. It was evident that the elephant could, at any time, break away from her tie, but, for some reason, didn’t. I saw her keeper close by and asked him why this beautiful, superb animal just stood there and was not attempted to break away from her bond.

He explained that when elephants are very young and much smaller, they use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it is adequate to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot escape.

The elephants believe the rope can still tether them, so they do not try to break free. I was astounded. These animals could at any time shake off their bonds, but because they believed they could not, they made no attempts to escape and remained right where they were.

Thinking of this story, I started to reflect on how like the elephants, many of us go through life hanging onto an attitude or belief that we cannot do something, merely because we failed doing it at a former time.

Old beliefs hold you back. Decide whether you really want to change.

How many of us are holding back because of a previous outdated belief that no longer serves us? Have you passed up trying something new because of a limiting belief? On the other hand, how many times do you feel you were being held back by someone else’s limiting beliefs?

The more you begin to believe that you are not able to accomplish your dream or challenge, the less likely you are to achieve it. It is almost as if you talk yourself into it. 

Decide to stop.

Where to Start

I encourage you to challenge your own limiting beliefs by questioning them.

This constant questioning will weaken the belief and its hold on you. 

Once you have watered down your old belief, begin to replace it with a fresh, empowering one. Search for situations to sustain your ‘new and improved’ beliefs. Choose to affirm beliefs that develop and nurture. Seek out friends and colleagues who may have accomplished what you want to achieve, find out what they did, and copy their behaviour.

To help keep you on this path, remember the successful times in your past,  and use that experience to push yourself forward. And begin a process: 

  • Envision and create successes in your mind. 
  • Visualize yourself achieving your goals successfully.
  • Repeat to yourself that you are succeeding.
  • Write down your affirmations and review them daily.
  • Also, take the appropriate action to move forward with your new goal.

Beliefs Need Mileage to Take Hold. Step off the brake.

I find many people get up each morning and get into their car of life and start their engines, put their vehicle in gear and expect to move forward only to be frustrated they are not moving. What is interesting is their foot is on the brake at the same time they have their foot on the gas pedal. We need to take our foot off the brake to move forward in our lives.

Remember to take your foot off the brakes to help your new beliefs gain traction. 

What if My New Belief is Unrealistic?

The unconscious mind does not know the difference between real and make-believe.

Here’s an experiment to try: 

  1. Imagine you are in your kitchen.
  2. Imagine going to your fridge, open the door and take out a lemon from the bottom drawer. Close the fridge. 
  3. Now, see yourself taking the lemon to the cutting board and cut it in half and then again, so you have a wedge.
  4. Imagine biting into the lemon wedge. 
  5. Do you feel a tingling in your mouth at the sourness of the lemon?  Yet, there is no lemon in your hand or mouth.

Your imagination is powerful. 

How do I Know This Will Work?

If you wait around for guarantees, you will wait for a long time. If doubt is crossing your mind, then you are not committed to expunging your unwanted belief. Why not start with that belief?

Ask yourself: Do I always need a guarantee of something in order to try something? Question it.  What happens if you go to a restaurant and they are out of your favourite meal?  Do you leave? Or do you try something else?  Most of us would try something else. Some of us may even discover a new favourite.  

Then, consider the number of authors who have written on this subject.  

Michael Losier, in the book “The Law of Attraction“, writes that whatever you believe, with conviction, you can achieve. He adds that we attract into our lives whatever we give our attention, energy and focus to whether it is positive or negative.

Dr. Raymond Holliwell, “Working with the Law, says, “Never expect anything you do not want, and never desire a thing you do not expect. When you expect something you do not want, you attract the undesirable, and when you desire a thing that is not expected, you simply dissipate valuable mental force. On the other hand, when you constantly expect that which you persistently desire, your ability to attract becomes irresistible. The mind is a magnet and attracts whatever corresponds to its ruling state.”

Take Charge of Your Beliefs, and Change Your Life.

So, do not be like the poor elephant and go through your days trapped in a place or in a situation because of a limiting belief or negative attitude you developed some years ago. Jim Donovan, author of “Handbook to a Happier Life” and “This Is Your Life, Not a Dress Rehearsal“, says, “Take charge of your life now and live it to the fullest because you deserve the best.”

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