Friday, 13 April 2012

The Difference between ‘Good’ Stress and ‘Bad’ Stress

The Difference between ‘Good’ Stress and ‘Bad’ Stress

Stress is a term that can imply several things and therefore has different definitions. Put simply, stress occurs when an event or situation is too much for you to handle. Stress is typically experienced in response to physical and/or psychological stimuli. You can also experience stress by merely anticipating problems. But what is good stress? Unless it is sarcasm, we do not really hear people say, "I really feel stressed -- isn't it great?" But the fact is that if we did not have some stress in our lives -- the 'good stress' variety -- we would feel rudderless and unhappy!

The so-called ‘good stress’, or what psychologists call ‘eustress’, is actually the kind of stress that we sense when we get excited. The pulse rate becomes faster, the hormones also change but there is no threat or fear! This is the kind of feeling that comes while taking an adventurous ride in an amusement park, on a first date or simply a visit to a very exciting place. This is referred to as stress as the hormones do get disturbed but actually it is good stress and does leave us feeling excited about life. It lasts for a short while before we become used to the positive change.

The stress that we truly need to worry about is chronic or bad stress. This comes when we face stressors again and again and feel that we will not be able to cope with the changes they bring in our emotions or our behaviour with others. A stressful job or an unhappy life at home typically brings chronic stress. Other common causes include financial difficulties, breaking up with a close friend, death of a loved one, loneliness, discrimination or harassment.

The good news is that you can change some of your bad stress into good, positive stress. Though not all forms of bad stress can become good stress, but it is possible to change the perception of some of the stressors in life. Such changes ultimately change the very experience of stress. This is because during a stress response, the body reacts strongly to perceived threats. But when you do not perceive something as a threat, your response to it is also not threat-based – fight or flight.

Identifying the chronic sources of your stress and changing your perception of them can help to cut down ‘bad stress’ in life. A person can make the shift in his/her perception by focusing on resources, seeing the hidden potential advantages of a situation, and reminding himself / herself of his / her strengths. In addition to these, freeing the mind of negative thoughts, having a good diet, enjoying adequate hours of good quality sleep, regular exercise, practicing hobbies and being in the company of people who make us happy can truly help us beat bad stress. Most importantly, getting into the habit of thinking like an optimist can be immensely helpful. Once you master the practice of looking at things as challenges more often, it becomes more automatic.

When you sincerely try to add some positive activities in the mix to promote eustress, you can truly create a nice balance of good stress in your life.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Why people Fail to Effectively Deal with Stress?

Why people Fail to Effectively Deal with Stress?

Hectic lifestyle, disturbed relationships or break ups, death of a loved one, financial difficulties, loss of job and other challenging circumstances do make life stressful. Managing stress requires taking charge of the factors that cause stress. This implies that you need to control your thoughts, emotions, work and personal schedule and environment. To be successful in stress management, it is also important to first identify the real reasons behind stress. This is not that easy and at times, there may be multiple factors contributing to stress in your life. Some people also fail to identify the real stress inducing factors. However, once identified, the factors causing stress can be controlled with some conscious efforts.

People often fail to deal effectively with stress when they use unhealthy ways to cope with their problems. Some strategies that may temporarily help to reduce stress can actually cause more harm in the long run. Some of these include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking
  • Using sleeping pills, sedatives or other drugs to relax
  • Overeating or under eating
  • Spending hours in front of before the television or browsing the Internet
  • Sleeping too much
  • Distancing from family, friends and daily activities
  • Lashing out angrily on others in frustration
  • Procrastinating work

Obviously, not all stress can be avoided and running away from a problem that needs real or urgent attention is not the right solution. However, there are several stress causing situations and factors in life that can be successfully avoided. When you know your limits and stick to them in your professional and personal life, it becomes possible to eliminate unnecessary stress. So, if you have too much on your plate, try to identify your priorities. In other words, learn to distinguish between ‘should’ and ‘must’.

At times, a person may stress you out. However, instead of avoiding true friends, family and real well wishers, the right approach is to avoid that person – the one who consistently becomes a source of emotional or psychological disturbance in your life. If complete avoidance is not possible, limit the amount of time that you spend with him/her.

It is a common experience that bottling up certain feelings also increases stress in life. So, when something or someone bothers you, it is better to communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. Also, when you expect someone to change their behaviour, be willing to bring a little change in your attitude too. In personal relationships, when the other person refuses to bend or change, the best remedy is to forgive and forget. After all, we do live in an imperfect world and people do make mistakes.

Spending time with positive people who encourage you and help you to deal with stress is also a good strategy.

A very docile or submissive person also fails to deal with stress effectively. Taking a back seat in life or accepting defeat against problems will never end stress. So, learn to deal with problems head on while also doing your best to anticipate and prevent them in future.

People fail to deal with stress when they use inappropriate ways to eliminate stress. A change in attitude can help to take effective charge of thoughts, emotions, environment and life.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

What Beliefs Do You Have About Your Identity?

What is identity? The dictionary definition is “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is” but how does this affect who we are, what we believe and how we think, feel and act?

Everyone has beliefs about most things and people and some of these are called core beliefs, which are the very essence of how we see ourselves, other people, the world and the future. Core beliefs are very powerful and act as a filter to all our perceptions and, as a result, directly control the uniformity of our life’s decisions. Our identity is determined by this core belief and defines our individuality and is what makes us different, including those elements that good, bad or indifferent, and separates us from all others.

In addition, our identity is what generates our boundaries and limits within which we live our lives. Each and every one of us has capabilities but just how much of these capabilities we use is dependent upon the identity we have set for ourselves. As a coach, I see many clients who say to me “I am depressed” or “I am not confident” or “I am a failure”. What they are actually doing is defining themselves and, therefore, limiting their possibilities to be anything other than the label they have given themselves. Many times I am told “I am who I am” and become defensive when I challenge their view or beliefs of who they are. Because they are focusing on an unhelpful or un-resourceful identity they will get more of what they are already getting. What is also true is that if you see yourself, for example, as depressed so too will other people see you this way and this reinforces the identity of the individual.

Whether or not our view of ourselves is accurate, we will act consistently within the boundaries and limits we have set ourselves within our identity. Humans crave consistency and this causes us to act out this identity regardless of what the personal cost may be.  This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, we get what we focus on. In the case of the depressed client, the focus is on being depressed and hey presto this is what he gets, more depression.  A better way of defining himself would be say that “I’m a normal person who is going through some mental health challenges at the moment”.

So, if humans crave consistency, the same strategy works equally well IF you can change your beliefs about your identity and the strategies that you use to break the current boundaries and limits and reach your true capabilities. However, changing our beliefs about our identity is not easy, in some cases the old identity has become their comfort zone, a place of safety, albeit with negative consequences, and changing will take away this sense of consistency and take them to, initially, a place of confusion and pain. After all, if we question our identity we have to question all the beliefs we currently hold true, beliefs that we may have held for a long time and even built our lives upon and around.

So, if the current identity is unhelpful what is the new identity and how do we get there? As I mentioned above, changing the words we use to describe who we are is the first, and most important step to make. “I am a person who is currently facing some mental health challenges” is far more resourceful than “I am depressed”. There is an intrinsic link between who we see ourselves as and our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Who we see ourselves as is controlled by our beliefs and creating a belief that you are a person with mental health challenges will create new beliefs about who you are and then our behaviours will change to support this new belief. This identity change will allow us to generate long-term psychological and physiological changes that are consistent with the new identity.

Reformulating, altering or expanding your personal identity can deliver astounding, quick and lasting improvements in the quality of your life.