We all experience stress, the good the bad and the, at times, ugly. The good kind, a.k.a eustress is the kind of stress that is a bit exciting and can be motivating, such as getting engaged, receiving a promotion, about to present a talk that you have worked hard on. These elevate your heartbeat, fill your body with adrenaline and dopamine and lets your body know that things are happening, but these hormones quickly subside and you return to a homeostasis fairly quickly. The bad kind, is distress and is cumulative. Distress is an unhealthy relationship, a negative work environment, or facing bankruptcy. The body does not do well under long periods of time where cortisol (the stress hormone) is flowing through your bloodstream. It can lead to weight gain, immune system suppression, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular disease and fertility difficulties, so stress management is vital for maintaining good health and happiness.
Being able to recognise when you are experiencing long term stress side effects is key to change. Not everyone experiences that exact same side effects, but there is a cluster of symptoms; Insomnia, change in appetite, sexual disorders, aches and pains, frequent colds and flus, and feelings of intense long term fatigue.
Here are 6 key strategies for managing stress. I call them the 6 A’s.
Avoid the Stressor
· Learn how to say ‘no’.
o Every time you are asked to do something, say ‘NO.’ seems drastic I know, but if after you have thought about it, and you find that you can REALISTICALLY fit it in, then you can always go back and say ‘yes’. It is much easier than saying “I know I said I could do that for you, but now I can’t do it after all.
· Avoid people who stress you out.
o If you leave the company of someone and you consistently feel deflated, sad, angry, dismissed, just a bit 'ick'…then do yourself the favour of avoiding this person, they just aren’t that good for you!
· Take control of your environment
o If you don’t like where you live and you can reasonably do so, then move. If you have pictures that you have meant to put in frames and hang up, do it, don’t put it off any longer. If you know you need to change jobs to get away from the toxic work place send out those CVs, don’t put it off any longer. Take charge.
· Avoid hot-button topics
o When you go out with friends and there is a hot button topic that annoys you, ask to not talk about it. My friend recently went for dinner with friends who were also mothers and said “please can we not talk about our children during this meal,” and consequently had a wonderful conversation about other things.
· Pare down your to-do list
o Rather than feeling like you are constantly fighting with your to-do list do not put more than 3 things on it per day. Having a feeling of success at the end of the day will leave you feeling a whole lot better about what you accomplished.