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Managing your stress

A Positive Stress experience triggers a natural boost of energy enabling you to improve your performance. A Negative Stress experience on the other hand, impairs your performance, and can even lead to serious illnesses.

Relaxation
To relax is to do the opposite of stress, that is to be subjected to physical, mental, or emotional ease in response to external stimuli.

  • Better control over your stress: By relaxing, you give yourself the mental and physical space to be proactive: to assess how your stress is affecting you, so that you can choose the best response.
  • Enable your body to recharge: Stress uses up the body’s endocrine and energy resources. Relaxing allows those resources to be replenished.
  • Improved body state: Relaxation reduces your blood pressure and muscle tension, and improves the functioning of your immune system.
  • Emotional well-being: Relaxation brings you into a state of calm, meaning that you are less likely to become emotionally overwhelmed during difficult times.

Manage Your Life:
Dr Hans Selye says it best: “Its not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” As such, the best response to stress is to react in the right way, by being proactive, using good time practices, and putting first things first. This reaction will ensure that your life is filled with positive stress, leading you to consistent high performance and productivity. Some of the resources at your disposal for managing your life effectively include:

  • Your Calendar (if you don’t have one, go get one now!)
  • Your Diary
  • Your Cell Phone and/or Computer
  • Your parents, teachers and/or managers, colleagues, and friends. Remember, when in trouble or doubt, ask for help!

 

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What is stress?

Stress is usually a good thing, as it often leads to a boost in performance and well-being, which we can use to deal with the cause of our stress. But sometimes, persistent stress can become a negative influence, causing damage to your body and mind.

The first and most important point about stress is that it is a perfectly natural part of our lives.

The nature and experience of stress has changed over time due to the impact of technology and civilisation. Nowadays, a typical stressor is more likely to be the sight of a 25-page assignment, as opposed to seeing a lion in your front yard!

Dr Hans Selye is credited with introducing the concept of stress in a medical context. Whilst conducting lab experiments in the 1930’s he discovered that when you are exposed to a stressor, an automatic hormonal stress response is triggered. This stress response continues until the cause of the stress is resolved, or until your body’s stress response reserves becomes depleted.
ALARM – RESISTANCE – EXHAUSTION

The difference between the experience of positive stress and negative stress lies in the nature (real or imagined) of the stressor, the duration of the stressor, and your ability to cope with the stressor.

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Positive & negative stress

Stress is the experience of “being subjected to physical, mental or emotional strain in response to real or imagined stimuli”.

Positive stress

Positive Stress is experienced when a stressor leads to an improvement in your overall performance and productivity. Positive stress is usually the outcome of a positive attitude towards a stressor (being proactive), good time management practices, and effective prioritising of one’s activities (putting first things first). Good news, or an unexpected benefit, can also cause a positive stress experience. Experiencing positive stress leads to several benefits which include:

  • Increased Creativity: Not only are you able to make or develop things, you are also able to think of new or more effective methods for completing tasks.
  • Higher Productivity: You are able to complete more tasks at work, and participate in more activities in your personal life.
  • Improved Self-Esteem: You generally feel good about yourself, and happy with the life that you are leading.
  • Better Health: Positive stress stimulates your immune system to operate optimally, meaning that you are less likely to become ill.

Whilst positive stress has excellent benefits for your life, it is important to note that positive stress depletes the body’s reserves just as much as negative stress does. Over-exposing yourself to positive stressors without effectively managing your stress, can transform positive stress into negative stress, thereby inducing exhaustion.

Negative stress

Normally, stress coaxes the best performance out of a person. However, should your stress threshold be exceeded, one becomes over-stressed, and the outcome is that your overall performance and productivity becomes impaired or completely debilitated: this is known as a Negative Stress experience. Negative stress is usually the outcome of a poor attitude towards a stressor (being reactive), poor time management practices, and failing to prioritise one’s activities. Sometimes, traumatic events can also lead to the experience of negative stress.

Because you are over-stressed, your body’s ability to cope with the stressor becomes depleted at a much faster rate. This leads to an early onset of exhaustion – often before you are able to successfully resolve a stressful situation.