There is so much around these days about stress and stress management, but just what does that really mean to us?
The Oxford English dictionary defines stress as: "Pressure or tension exerted on a material object" and also as "a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances."
When we are stressed our bodies release chemicals to give us extra energy and strength. This is very useful and necessary to avoid immediate danger and return us to what we call homeostasis – our normal or natural order. The kinds of things we might notice here are: sweaty palms, faster heartbeat, out of breath, dry mouth, butterflies in the stomach or needing the toilet. So, this example is a kind of short term stress – we get stressed, we address it, we are safe again and we move on. Absolutely wonderful if we are running from a mad axe-man or freeing ourselves from the jaws of a shark. Now the problem starts with longer term stress when we don’t use up this extra energy.
Over time, (and this can be many, many years, or maybe just a very short time) stressful things that affect us, or experiences that we have had, spill over from our minds and into our bodies. If these 'things' or issues are not dealt with then they will sit there within the layers of our body for a long time, fester and eventually manifest as a physical problem. The body needs to let go and release these 'things' in order to work most effectively.
Symptoms of stress Our bodies will give us signs that there is a problem or something is not quite right, but in this fast-paced life that we live, we often ignore the signs and symptoms until the problem is so big that we can't ignore it anymore and it is causing our life not to run smoothly. This is longer term stress. Sometimes we may not even realise we have it.
Symptoms of longer term stress might begin with things like:
Loss of appetite
Muscular aches and pains
Self care This list is a mere dot on the landscape of symptoms of stress, but the main point is that we need to look after ourselves to stay well, perform effectively and ideally avoid stress altogether. Obviously in the 21st century avoiding stress altogether is probably very unlikely, but what we can do is be kind to ourselves and try to manage any stress we may be up against, or anything which has been with us for a long time. We often avoid the subject of self-care saying that we are….too busy, too busy with work, don't have time, busy with the kids, don’t have enough money, have other things to do, etc etc.
We will look at types of things we can do to help us manage stress in future blogs. But put simply, we can't do everything all of the time that’s for sure, and if we don't put ourself at the top of the To-Do list, then all those other things on it will suffer. They won't get done, or they won't get done effectively, or we will forget something or not give as much as we could. Putting ourselves first doesn’t mean we are selfish or a bad parent, literally quite the opposite. We are worth it and our loved ones deserve for us to be the best we can……