If you are feeling stress on the job, relax, it’s normal. Stress is our internal system that alerts us to the fact that something is wrong and action needs to be taken. In fact, it’s almost impossible to live without some stress, and really when it comes down to it who would want to. Who would want to go through life where your emotions never change, your excitement level remained on an even keel. Stress gives spice to life. Without it we would have no goals, no motivation and no enjoyment of life. Without some stress we would be unable to do our jobs to the level of competence required.
Where the problem comes with stress; however, is the failure on the part of many people to react positively to stress. Rather than dealing with the source of the stress some will seek simply to escape it. But no matter how hard we try to bury it, it will always come back and usually more intense than before. If left unchecked stress can cause health problems, relationship problems and work problems. Stress can be an underlying cause to unsafe actions and attitudes on our work-sites.
We should be aware that any life change, whether positive or negative, can contribute to unhealthy levels of stress. Death of a loved one or divorce are well recognized sources of stress, but did you know that things like getting married, expecting a child, buying a new house and even Christmas may contribute to the level of stress we experience.
So what do we do about stress when it begins to mount? One method that has been developed is known as the TARP system. The T in TARP stands for “Tune In”. If you don’t recognize stress, how are you going to deal with it? You need to become aware of how stress affects you personally. Your symptoms may not be the same as the next person so it’s important to understand yourself. Even though stress affects everyone differently, here are some common symptoms that may help you to recognize when you are feeling stressed. Tension, irritability, inability to concentrate, feeling abnormally tired and trouble sleeping are common alarms you should recognize.
There may be physical symptoms as well. Dry mouth, a pounding heart, difficulty breathing, upset stomach, headache, frequent urination, sweating palms and tight or painful muscles are all symptoms that could be attributable to stress. Think back to a time you were under a lot of stress and ask yourself how you were feeling. Use those symptoms as your personal alarm system to stress, but be aware that stress may not always affect you the same way each and every time.
Once you’ve “Tuned In” and have recognized the stress it’s time for phase two and that is A for “Analyze”. It’s time to identify what the stressors are. They may be related to your job and a number of issues that need to be dealt with. The more things on your plate at a given time, the more likely they are to cause stress. It may be that a person or persons you deal with could be causing you stress.
Maybe it’s not the job at all, but some other area of your life that is causing you stress. Family issues may be what is causing the stress. Or rather than being something external, the stressor could be something internal. Have you been getting enough rest? Is your body crying for more physical activity? How about your eating habits? Are you getting enough of the right kinds of food? Whatever the stressors are you need to take some time to analyze and identify them. If you feel a list would be helpful, make it.
Once you know what is causing you stress it’s important to move on to the next step of the TARP method and that is R for respond. You need to deal with the cause of the stress and its effect on you. For me there is nothing more satisfying in my work when I have a long list of tasks to complete, than to see those check marks signifying that I have completed things that need doing. Your response must be calm and active. Frenetically trying to do everything is not the answer. Take control of all the negative thoughts, and carefully develop an action plan and carry it out. Deal with your stressors one by one and celebrate your victories as you achieve them.
It may be that you are unable to deal with each and every stressor on your own. In that case it is important to reach out and seek the help you need. Talking with your boss or work mates or other expert about your situation may bring the help you need. Use friends and loved ones for support. For more personal issues consider seeking the advice of professionals. Psychologists, psycho-therapists, nurses, doctors, dieticians or others have the expertise to be able to help you.
This brings us to the final technique of the TARP method and that is P for Prevent. It is important to develop good stress-reduction habits for a healthier lifestyle. There are a number of things you can incorporate into your life that will relieve stress.
The first thing is to plan times when you can relax. Whether that is simply watching TV or sitting down with a book or magazine, away time rejuvenates the mind and relieves stress.
Regular exercise is also an important stress reliever. People who exercise regularly are generally less stressed than those who don’t. The most effective exercises are those that use the whole body; things like walking, running, swimming, biking are ideal.
Alcohol and drugs are often used by people as de-stressors. As often as not; however, these are used as an escape and will compound the problem. With excessive drug and alcohol use you get a rebound effect and a person feels more stressed than ever.
Another common misconception is that smoking calms the nerves. In actual fact, nicotine is a stimulant and may contribute to stress. Perhaps quitting will alleviate some stress in your life. Unfortunately trying to quit can also cause too much stress. There are many sources of help available nowadays that can reduce the amount of stress associated with quitting. Most are aware of the patches and gums on the market. Also there are quit smoking groups run by various community groups that can be a big help as well. In the end quitting smoking will make you a calmer person. The next thing you should think about is coffee and other caffeine products. For most people two or three cups a day has no effect, but if you go beyond that the stimulants in coffee may be contributing to your stress level. Cutting down will help.
Another way to manage stress is through hobbies, past times and leisure activities. Don’t choose a hobby just because you think it will relieve stress. The whole idea is to pick something that you enjoy doing. It’s the enjoyment you get from it that will relieve the stress.
There are lots of other strategies that work for some people. Massage, meditation, yoga, etc. are things that may be just up your alley.
One of the most effective ways to prevent stress, is to maintain a good sense of humor. Laughing releases muscle tension and helps a person maintain perspective. Seek out people you can laugh and joke with or simply watch a comedy or listen to a comedian’s routine.
In the end we all need a little stress in our lives but it must be managed. Take some time to learn to recognize the symptoms of stress and then have the strategies on hand to reduce and prevent too much stress.