Stress

Stress is our psychological, physiological and behavioural response to change, and stressors are the ever-present situations that bring about change.

The significance, meaning and interpretation that an individual assigns to a stressor affects how the individual will respond. Unanticipated, undesirable & uncontrollable changes increase our stress response.

When faced with a situation, you automatically and immediately evaluate the situation. You decide if it is threatening, how you need to deal with the situation and what skills you can use. If you decide that the demands of the situation outweigh the skills you have, then your body responds with the “stress response.”

In the past, the demands of meeting basic needs used up the stress response energy and returned the body to normal functioning. In today’s society, we trigger our stress response more often and have fewer outlets for the extra energy produced. There are very few battles to fight and almost no places to run. Our bodies need time to replenish their resources and when this does not occur, our bodies begin to break down.*

To start addressing the negative effects of stress, try the following suggestions:

  1. Recognize your symptoms of stress
  2. Look at your lifestyle and see what can be changed in your work or family situation, or your schedule
  3. Use relaxation techniques, i.e., yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or massage
  4. Exercise - Physical activity is one of the most effective stress remedies around!
  5. Time management - Do essential tasks and prioritize the others. Consider those who may be affected by your decisions, such as family and friends. Use a check list so you will receive satisfaction as you check off each job as it is done.
  6. Watch your diet - Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fats and tobacco all put a strain on your body's ability to cope with stress. A diet with a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods high in protein but low in fat will help create optimum health. Contact your local branch of the Heart and Stroke Foundation for further information about healthy eating.
  7. Get enough rest and sleep
  8. Talk with others - friends, professional counsellors, support groups or relatives about what is bothering you**

* Excerpt from the “Stress Sense” series of resource books)
** Partial list from “Coping with Stress” booklet on the CMHA National website