How Do You React to Stress?

Work can be hugely stressful. In fact, twenty-five percent of Americans say that their job is their greatest contributor to the angst in their lives.  And, clearly there are other stresses too.  Pressure, anxiety, and tension can result in headaches, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, short tempers, upset stomachs, low morale, and general life dissatisfaction.  Shift workers can experience extra stress as a result of working variable hours, getting less sleep, having little access to family members and friends, leading to increased isolation and lack of support.

Stress can be reduced though, and here are some ideas to help.

Here is a good way to look at stress and how you react to it (provided by



People under stress need to figure out how to manage life’s stresses.  Stress is never going to be eliminated altogether.  A little stress in our lives is important to keep us on our toes and to motivate us.  Every person is different so each person needs to be mindful of their own stress and what works and doesn’t work to manage it.  And, sometimes, what works best is not a possibility. For example, sometimes you just cannot take a time-out at work.  But you can try and look forward to your next break or your next day off.

Shift workers use many short-term solutions to cope with stress.  Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, using sleeping medications and other drugs, smoking, eating too much or making the wrong food choices are all examples of common ways shift workers comfort themselves. While these solutions may provide some short-term relief, they are only placating the symptoms of the stress and not addressing the causes.  To manage stress, try and look at your communication skills.  Do you withdraw or lash out when under stress?  Isolating yourself or driving others away is the opposite of what you need.  Try and be aware of your emotions and the impact they have on you and on others.  Talking about what’s going on is an automatic stress reducer.  And, you may actually find solutions to alleviate stress when sharing with others.  Pay attention to your eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, and to the gestures you make.  Try and see yourself as others see you.  Be approachable and willing to make contact with others.

Here are some ideas about ways to lighten your load or to help others under stress:

1.  Do what has to be done to get it out of the way.  When you are preoccupied with tasks that have to be accomplished, stress levels rise.

2. Find a simple activity that you love and can do every day. Some people love to garden, or even just buy fresh flowers.  Others enjoy music or reading. Carve out a little time everyday for something you enjoy.

3.  Keep in touch with people.  When you are removed and distant, it’s easy to fill up your mind with negative thoughts, as opposed to being positive.

4.  If you have hurt someone, apologize and do what you can to improve the relationship.  Stress is even more difficult to conquer when you feel guilty.

5.  Pay attention to your body and when you feel stress (e.g. tight jaw, indigestion, headache, or neck pain) take a deep breath and focus on something else, like people laughing, birds chirping, or music playing in the background.

One important thing that people often overlook during stressful times is the importance of acceptance.  When you allow yourself to feel the stress, if you are mindful of the causes, you are actually taking the first step towards making the changes necessary to more permanently alleviate your angst.  Change isn’t easy, and perhaps the stress is a warning signal that something needs to change.  This may be changing your attitude at work or looking for a new job, or it may be dealing with a difficult personal relationship and either finding ways to improve it or move on.

If you deal with stress by pushing it away or using unhealthy coping mechanisms, nothing will change and your stress will continue.  Being aware of your emotions is the first step towards achieving the opposite of stress –  a state of well-being.

©2010 Circadian Age, Inc.˜Working Nights”

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