Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by stressful situations and always worrying? Do you feel like you are under a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety? The effects of stress aren’t just detrimental to our mental health, it can also cause many physical health problems if not managed well.
Do you have trouble concentrating? Are you always worrying?
Do you feel anxious such that your hands tremble and your palms get sweaty?
These are all signs of stress. You can control stress and not let it control you!
Stress is the body's response to any physical or emotional changes in life. This response includes the release of a hormone, adrenaline, in the body. Adrenaline causes an increase in heart rate, breathing and blood sugar levels. It also diverts the blood flow from your digestive system to your muscles (e.g. leg muscles).
This response prepares you for "fight or flight". Therefore, you will feel more alert. We all experience stress as we cope with daily events. Daily demands such as rules, responsibilities, decisions, changes, relationships, illness and money can cause stress.
Stress can give life some spice and excitement. Positive stress helps you to cope with problems that might arise. On the other hand, living under very stressful conditions for long periods of time may harm your health, your relationships, and your enjoyment of life.
Both positive and negative life events can lead to stress. Common causes or sources of stress in our lives could include:
Major life changes:
Everyone reacts and copes with situations differently and thus we experience stress to different levels of intensity. Your body sends out various physical, mental, behavioural and emotional warning signs of stress.
Physical signs of stress:
Emotional signs of stress:
Mental signs of stress:
Behavioural signs of stress:
Long-term stress exposes our body constantly to the effects of adrenaline and will lead to many health problems:
Some people have a negative way of coping. They take drugs, consume excessive alcohol, smoke, binge on food and injure themselves. These only mask the stress they feel, harm their health and even cause emotional and financial burden to their family. We would not be able to get rid of stress altogether, but we can learn to reduce stress or manage it at a level that we can handle. Here are some stress busters which provide for positive ways to cope with stress.
1. Plan your time well
Keep a daily planner. Give priority to the most important activities and do them first. Break large demands into small, manageable parts. Work through one task at a time. Decide how much time you need for each job. Be careful not to over organise. Leave some room for flexibility and spontaneity.
Planning ahead helps you to complete the tasks you have prioritised. This allows you to have a sense of achievement for the tasks you have completed.
2. Be realistic about what you can do
Choose your work according to your own abilities and interests. Focus on what you can do and not for the impossible. Set goals that are achievable so you don't become frustrated or discouraged.
3. Spread out the major changes in your life
Give yourself time to adjust from one change to another. For example, avoid changing jobs, buying a car or a flat all at the same time.
4. Speak to someone about your problems
Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Sharing your worries and concerns with your spouse, family, friend, supervisor or religious leader helps relieve your emotional burden and provides with you with emotional support. Try joining relevant support groups in your community. Call a helpline if you need to speak to a counsellor.
5. Interact with your family and friends
Family and friends are a key component of your life. They provide you with friendship, love and support in times of need. Set aside time each day to talk and relax together.
6. Learn to like yourself and think positive
Be happy with who you are. Keep a positive attitude and outlook in life. This helps you to accept what you cannot change and make the best of what you have.
Don't be overly concerned about your looks. If you are concerned about your weight, speak to your doctor or a nutritionist, who would be able to assess your weight status and give advice on weight management, if necessary.
7. Keep healthy
Keep your body healthy and fit by exercising regularly, eating wisely and getting enough sleep. Exercise provides stress relief. Engaging in regular physical activity releases endorphins which give you a natural "high". Eating a healthy and balanced diet based on the Healthy Diet Pyramid will provide the recommended level of nutrients needed to boost the immune system.
8. Make some time for yourself
Do something that you really enjoy. Take up a hobby like dancing, painting or a sport. Take a short break when you feel tense or tired. Get up and stretch, or take a short walk. When you return to your work, you can concentrate better.
9. Learn some relaxation techniques
Deep breathing exercises, meditation, massage and muscle relaxation techniques help to relieve stress.
Your Work Life
1. Be clear about your roles
Know your job scope and what is expected of you. If not, clarify with your supervisor. When working in a team, know each other's roles and responsibilities. Communicate regularly to ensure that the projects are on schedule. Delegate work, where appropriate
2. Prioritise your work
Plan a timeline for your projects. Start on projects that require immediate attention. Allow an additional 10% of your time for unforeseen circumstances.
3. Be realistic in what you can do
Start a job only when you can and have time to finish it. Similarly, do not take on new workload when you are up to your neck in work. Learn to say 'no' when necessary.
4. Plan your meeting and start on time
Set the objective and agenda for your meeting and request cooperation from team members to be punctual. This helps reduce time wasted discussing irrelevant issues and waiting for everyone to get started. The extra minutes saved can be spent on productive work.
5. Practice 'power' chat
Keep business telephone conversation brief and concise. Don't get into the habit of chatting too long which could affect your work productivity.
6. Counter negative thoughts
Watch out for negative thoughts at work. Stop worrying about how you appear to other people. Focus on your good qualities and accomplishments. Counter negative thoughts with positive affirmations such as "I can do it!". Add helpful reminders to your screen saver, such as, "Take a deep breath," or add a phrase or joke that makes you laugh.
7. Be fit and healthy
Join your workplace health programmes such as exercise classes, stress management courses or quit smoking programme, to keep healthy and fit.
Your personal life
1. Plan your household chores
Spread out the tasks that need to be done over the week. Avoid doing too many tasks in one day if you can. Prepare a list for grocery shopping so that you don't miss out on buying items that you need.
2. Plan your vacation
Plan your travel arrangement early and find out more about the place you are visiting (e.g. weather and road conditions, medical facilities, visitor's attractions, safety matters etc.).
Prepare a list of items you need to bring along:
If you have pets, make arrangement for someone to take care of them, especially if you are away for an extended period of time.
3. Plan for festive periods or gatherings
List the people you would be visiting and plan your time. Write down a gift list and purchase the gifts in advance, if necessary.
If you are organising parties or social gatherings, prepare an invitation list and plan the menu. If necessary, make catering arrangement early.
4. Plan your childcare arrangement
Be aware of the facilities, programmes and deadline for infant / child care / schooling arrangements. For working adults with young children, there are infant / child care centres and before and after school care facilities that will help look after your children while you are at work. Find one that suits you.
5. Recognise the responsibility if you are caring for an elderly
Be aware of the demands when caring for an elderly, especially if they have a medical condition that requires regular medication and frequent visits to the clinics / rehabilitation centres. Modifications to the home environment, e.g. renovations can be made to provide a safer environment for the elderly.
Give yourself 5-10 minutes to do this exercise.
Give yourself 10-15 minutes to do this exercise. If you have more time, start with a deep breathing exercise, followed by a visual imagery exercise:
It is recommended that you use an audio-guided CD* to do the muscle relaxation exercise. Give yourself about 20-30 minutes for this exercise.
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This article was last reviewed on
Friday, November 29, 2019
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