National Stress Awareness Day - Stress & How to Ease it

How is it that some of us seem to deal with stress and others seem to disintegrate?

What is stress and how can we improve our emotional resilience? Should we try and ‘just get on with it’ or should we avoid stressful situations and distract ourselves? The answer is possibly both depending upon who you are and the situation. Each of us is unique and we operate uniquely. Some of us have an ability to plough through things and have no ill effect, others react negatively to the smallest amount of stress. Both these situations need to be carefully considered and the person, who is dealing with that situation which is producing the stress should perhaps ask themselves, what is the authentic reality of this situation?

 

A lack of self-awareness can be problematical to you understanding how you can deal with pressured situations. Different people can deal with different stress levels. It’s good to find out the levels of stress you can and cannot cope with, honestly without distortion. 

 

Adrian Wells, a professor of clinical and experimental psychopathology at the University of Manchester:

“The pursuit of a stress-free life is not healthy, stress is like exercise. It’s pretty uncomfortable at the time, but you build stamina and strength.”

This is true, if somewhat subjective from one person to another. If you are excited and interested in the task you are undertaking the stress is less. Battling on can build resilience, but that balloon can explode if there is too much pressure. 

I ‘battled on’ in the early 1990’s and I went from being a high energy, assertive business person to someone who struggled to get in to the shower once a week. I have become acutely self-aware and having stripped away all my erstwhile facades I understand the amount of stress that is good for me and the amount that is deleterious. Mindfulness has helped me tremendously and I have learnt to pace myself within my own limits. I say to myself:

“Slow is calm and calm is effective.”

Or to quote John Kabat-Zinn: 

“Even if you are hurrying, which is sometimes necessary, then at least hurry mindfully.”

(Kabat-Zinn, J. 1990: 358). Easily said, but this all that it takes, application and practice, and it works… eventually.


In modern life, stress is often inescapable and the search for a stress-free existence is probably pointless. When real stressors, like death, illness, loss of a job, collapse of a relationship occur it is genuine and tough to deal with. Anxiety, which is an irrational fear, or a collection of irrational thoughts and feelings processes is different from stress, which is usually caused by some issue of substance. Let’s get this right, stress can exacerbate anxiety and the two interact. 


When real stuff happens and the stress seems to be interminable, try to rationalise the situation and see if there will be an end to the stress. If there is you could, say to yourself, “This stress is temporary and I can work through it”.  If the stress seems permanent, you may wish to change your environment. If you cannot alter your environment, you are in a truly difficult situation so, to limit the stress, you might try to avoid or limit your exposure to the issue that is causing your stress and distract yourself. 

 

Try to become self-aware about who you really are as a person and shedding any distorted self-concepts about yourself. Use a contemplative and mindful thought process that also considers your felt sense is very useful in separating the authentic stuff and the irrational stuff and what you as a unique individual can cope with. 

 

 By Shane Lutkin, Lead Psychotherapist, Emotionalskills.uk 

Call 07986 488690 | Email info@emotionalskills.uk | Visit www.emotionalskills.uk

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