By dr. Martina Horvat
Each masters the rudder, when the sea is calm.
Life is like a boat sailing on water. Life events are like waves, which can shake our balance. The boat sometimes sails calmly, and sometimes storms appear on the horizon, the high waves bounce the boat strongly. Then you could say that one is under stress. Stress can be triggered by both positive and negative events that shake individual balance.
Stress is a physiological, psychological and behavioral response of an individual who tries to adapt and get used to internal and external stimuli (stressors). A stressor, however, is an event, person, or object that it is experienced by the individual as a stress element and causes stress. The stressor temporarily shakes the individual balance and stress is a normal response to this happening.
Stress and stressors are not the same for all people and are not equally (or easily) solvable for all of them. It depends on the individual's personality, his experience, how much energy he has, the circumstances in which stressors occur, and the wider and narrower environment in which he lives. The life orientation of the individual is also important in coping with stress. A certain event will for someone take place as a stressor and for others a welcome stimulus in life. The relationship between our own requirements, the requirements of the environment and the ability to cope is what tells us, whether there will be stress harmful and destructive (negative stress) or we will manage it and it will even encourage us to take action (positive stress). Some stress is essential for a normal life. But the problem arises, when stressful situations are too much, too frequent, too strong, or last too long. In this cases, stress can leads to different disorders (for example indigestion, cardiovaskular disorders, respiratory disorders, mental disorders, etc.). That is why we need to cope with negative stress.
Remember the following 6 steps of coping with stress.
Expect and plan! Try to anticipate, which stressors may be affecting you and prepare for them. Every morning or at the beginning of the new week, think about what awaits you and make a plan for how you will deal with stressors.
Limit the impact of stressors! Small stressors such as e.g. morning traffic jams, an important meeting at work, an argument with a partner, etc., can spread to all areas of our lives (e.g. when we have a bad day at work, we “bring” it home with us and thus make a bad day for everyone around us). Place stressors in its place: let the problem at work not ruin your relationships at home and vice versa. When you find out that you have a strong stressor in one area of your life, try to systematically maintain or strengthen other areas of your life!
Respond calmly! If we respond to a stressful situation immediately with action or emotional arousal, we become a victim of a stressful situation. A stress response is triggered, which weakens our immune system in the long run. If however, we respond calmly, we can maintain internal balance and thus gain time to consciously decide how we will deal with problems.
Take control of your body! It is important to stop the stress reaction as soon as possible - calm your breathing and release muscle tension. We can help ourselves with breathing technique. We can do this exercise sitting, standing or lying down, it is important that our spine is straight. We inhale through nose, exhale through the mouth. Place your palm on your abdomen, feel the abdominal wall rise along inhale, then exhale slowly. Exhale should take about twice as long as inhale. Let's repeat a few times, we can do several sets during the day until we feel calm. Prolonged exhalation has an effect on our nervous system, calms us down.
Slow down and seek your inner strength! Stressful situations usually force us furiously into activities to remove stress or avoid it. Instead, relax yourself mentally and physically with relaxation techniques. When you become mindful on your breathing and feeling of relaxation in the muscles, your attention will automatically turn inwards. Here is the source of your power.
Think optimistically! When we are under stress, we often lose sight of what is possible and what is important. Try to find good sides and opportunities in your current negative situation. Focus on your goals.
Let's not forget, that all activities we otherwise enjoy also have a relaxing effect (e.g. handicrafts, sports activities, reading, creating, board games, etc.). Mentally non-burdensome activities that distract us (e.g. tidying up), a supportive touch or a hug of a close people, conversation, can also support us. If we can stay focused, focused work can also help us, because it gives us a sense of control (at least over work) of life.
Don’t let stress take over your life!
dr. Martina Horvat
Dernovšek, M. Z., Gorenc, M. in Jeriček, H. (2012). Ko te strese stres: kako prepoznati in zdraviti stresne, anksiozne in depresivne motnje. Ljubljana: Inštitut za varovanje zdravja Republike Slovenije.
Bajt, M. (2020). Vaje, ki so nam lahko v pomoč v času izolacije zaradi izbruha koronavirusa. Internet: Vaje-čuječnosti-Maja-Bajt.pdf (dps.si)