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Stress: Don't Ignore It, Deal With It

Stress is a common topic of conversation on everybody's lips. "If only I could manage my stress better", "I just have to get over this stressful period", "I shouldn't let stress get the better of me, I should be able to manage it."

Stress has become a multi-million dollar industry. People are talking about it, researching it and making a living from it. We even hear children discussing stress.

In our fast paced lifestyle in the millennium it's going to take more than broccoli and jogging to combat the negative effects of stress.

Because of all of this attention to and study of stress we know more than we ever did before.

We know about the physical aspects and impacts of stress; we now understand individual differences and we are learning ways to respond to stress that help to build stress hardiness.

Early signs of distress differ greatly among individuals. For some, the first signs come from the body, for others the first signs come from the mind, and for others the first signs come from feelings.

One important aspect of stress hardiness is being sensitive to your own early signals of distress and taking action.

Notice and attend to the tightness in your mouth and jaw, don't wait for the dentist to tell you that you've been clenching your teeth for months and have done extensive damage to your mouth.

If early signals show up in your body, such as clenched teeth, digestive problems, headaches, and backaches, the best action is some form of relaxation. Achieve this through interventions such as exercise, massage, rest, seeing a chiropractor, doing yoga, etcetera.

If early signals of distress show up in your mind, such as lack of concentration, negativity, resentment, or a constant chatter in your head that doesn't let you sleep, the most effective intervention is learning to let go.

This can be achieved through many ways: write a journal, listen to music, pray, talk to someone, simplify your life.

If early signals of stress first show up through feelings, such as guilt, paranoia, mood swings, anger, or irritability, then the most effective intervention is to do anything that helps you take a pause. Take a break; count to 10; leave the room; reframe the situation; express your feelings; do bigger picture thinking; try meditation.

The body always whispers before it shouts. Learn to listen to the whispers. Most of the time we are taught to ignore stress and stress symptoms. We wait for them to go away. Problems arise when they do not go away, they just go underground. Then they resurface in a stronger form and do more damage to us through body symptoms, mind symptoms and feeling symptoms.

Human resource departments, health care facilities and insurance companies are reporting higher numbers of long-term leave related to stress. We can and must learn to take action in the early stages of stress. We must take responsibility for our own wellness. Effective stress management is early intervention, not crisis intervention!

Stress hardiness is not an inborn trait, nor one that is reserved for the old and wise. It's a life skill we can all benefit from learning. The possibility of being stress-free is unrealistic. The possibility of being stress hardy is not.

Workplace Today ©

Bina Feldman is a corporate training consultant and communication skills expert specializing in personal & professional development.