What Is Stress?
Stress comes as a natural part of life. It can be emotional, mental, or physical. In reasonable amounts, stress is harmless. In fact, it can even help people perform better. A healthy level of stress causes the muscles and the mind to respond at a faster speed. But when too much stress develops or the stress lasts for too long, it can cause significant problems.
Stress itself refers to the feelings of pressure that come from a situation. Stress can come from both internal and external sources. All people deal with stress to some extent, but it can become a minor or major health problem depending on the kind of stress and the length of time you must deal with it.
Causes for Stress
Stress can come from any number of places. The primary causes are known as stressors, and these can include challenges, health problems, worries, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, perceived problems, and more. Anything that causes discomfort can actually cause stress. Chronic stress and its symptoms develop when the stress remains and the body has no opportunity to rest or repair itself. A healthy level of stress is one that allows you to reach your best potential and then ends, giving you time to recuperate. Bear in mind that just because something may not be stressful to someone else does not mean it isn’t stressful for you.
The causes for stress are highly individualized. While certain events tend to cause more stress generally, you must pay attention to your own situation and realize that it could be causing stress problems, even if others seem fine with it.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress appears in a number of ways. Some of the most common symptoms of early stress include increases in blood pressure, increases in breathing rate, muscle tension, and a slowing of the metabolism. As the stress continues, additional symptoms can manifest, including headaches, nausea, ulcers, weight gain, sleep loss, acne, muscle pain, cramps, and muscle spasms. Hair loss, vision loss, and ridged nails also tend to appear as symptoms of prolonged stress. Certain disorders and medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, eczema, heart attacks, and the like have been linked to stress. While stress does not necessarily cause these conditions, it does worsen them. According to Medical News Today, high and untreated stress levels can even increase overall cancer and tumor aggressiveness.
While most chronic disorders are disorders that last for six months or longer, chronic stress problems tend to develop much more quickly. According to Web MD, the more serious conditions of chronic stress such as insomnia, slowed metabolism, muscles spasms, and cramps can occur within a matter of days if the situation is stressful enough. You should not wait until it has lasted a specific period of time. You need to visit a professional as soon as it becomes clear that you are suffering from more serious symptoms.
Seeking Help for Stress
Stress should not be left unattended after chronic stress symptoms start to appear. Depending on the kind of symptoms you manifest, you will need to either meet with a medical professional and/ or a therapist. In both cases, the professional will assist you in identifying the causes for the stress and identifying the primary stressors. In most cases, the next stage involves developing a customized plan for addressing the problems and eliminating the stressors. Psychotherapy is a popular method for most emotional and mental based stress issues. But sometimes a doctor must be brought in to address issues such as heart palpitations, sleeplessness, and the like. Remember that the effects from stress are cumulative. Failure to address them can cause greater and deeper health problems in the long run.
How to Compartmentalize Your Stress
Some days everything just seems so overwhelming that it’s hard to cope and even harder to think straight. We have all had days like this. With the stress of fast paced lives, family issues, working and the pressures of everyday life, sometimes it feels like we’re drowning in a sea of stress. It often feels like there is no escape from the stress.
Therapists and doctors agree that order to maintain health and happiness, individuals have to try and separate areas of stress and learn how to use the tool of compartmentalizing. Compartmentalizing helps you to set boundaries and focus on one thing at a time. The question becomes how to separate everything and do it effectively to reduce your stress.
Try to be aware of the parts of your life that are causing you stress. Think of each area as a compartment. To keep your mind from over flowing and losing focus, don’t let your thoughts jump around and back and forth. When you take control of your thoughts you can make decisions without the influence of the other areas of stress influencing your plans.
Lighten the load
Maybe the reason you’re stressed is because you just have too much to do. You may be taking responsibility for something that should be someone else’s task. Take some time to talk to people at home, at work, and in all your relationships about the division of labor. If you feel like it’s not fair, it’s possible others think so, too. But they might think you want to take everything on your shoulders. They might even be happy to do more of the work for you. Besides, speaking to these different people will help you identify the sources of your stress.
Sometimes it seems impossible not to multi-task. Unfortunately, though, multi-tasking is not effective. Recent studies have shown that the human brain is meant to focus on one thing at a time, and multitasking both creates stress and makes you less efficient. By splitting your thoughts and your attention at the same time, you are not deriving any benefit. Your goal is to divide and conquer. Keep your thoughts separate. As tempting as it is to work on two or more things at once, don’t do it. You want to maintain focus and give each thought the exact attention it needs without interruption.
Transitioning is the antithesis of multitasking. It allows you to put behind a source of stress and enjoy the non-stressful parts of your day. Rather than letting your thoughts flow from one right into the next recognize your pattern of thought, focus on the topic at hand, give it priority and then move onto the next. Cleanse your mind in between by doing something simple and distracting like taking a walk, doing a puzzle, whatever you can to wipe the slate clean and then move on to the next thing. Think of it as if you were in school and moving from class to class. Focus on math, but as soon as math class ends, you transition to English by walking down the hall and entering a whole new classroom.
The easiest way to begin compartmentalization is to write down a plan. As simple as this sounds, taking out a pad of paper and a pen is one of the last things we tend to do when we are stressed. List each of the parts of your life that is stressing you. For each point of stress, write a goal. Once you have determined the goal, write down each step that you need to take to reduce your stress and achieve that goal. No matter how simple, obvious or mundane the step may seem, write it down. If something in particular is stressing you at work, write down what it is and what you want to see happen. Look at it as a process of small steps from stress to goal and fill in what it will take to get there. And when you do reach the goal, find a way to reward yourself. A recent study suggested this may be the most effective stress relief mechanism.
Learning how to compartmentalize your stress is not easy. Many people seek professional help from trained therapists or psychiatrists to help them learn how to do this effectively. We all encounter stress every day. Your goal is to learn the secret of compartmentalization of stress, to lighten your load and, to become not only more effective in dealing with your stress, but also to enjoy and be more successful in the important areas of your life.