How many of us come home from work after a long day and can ACTUALLY say we relax? Stress can manifest itself in many forms such as a physical, psychological or social dysfunction resulting in individuals feeling unable to bridge the gap with the requirements or expectations placed upon them.” PAS 1010. Stress is an unhealthy state of body or mind or even both. Statistics showed that the total number of cases of stress in 2010/11 was 400,000 out of a total of 1,152,000 for all work-related illnesses. The industries that reported the highest rates of work-related stress in the last three years were health, social work, education and public administration [http://www.isma.org.uk/about-stress/facts-about-stress/].
So what is Stress?
Stress is an elevation in a person’s state of arousal or readiness, caused by some stimulus or demand. As stress arousal increases, health and performance actually improve. Within manageable levels, stress can help sharpen our attention and mobilise our bodies to cope with threatening situations. At some point, stress arousal reaches maximum effect. Once it does, all that was gained by stress arousal is then lost and deterioration of health and performance begins (Luxart Communications, 2004). Whether a stressor is a slight change in posture or a life-threatening assault, the brain determines when the body’s inner equilibrium is disturbed; the brain initiates the actions that restore the balance. The brain decides what is threatening and what is not. When we face challenging situations, the brain does a quick search. Have we been here before? If so, how did we feel? What was the outcome? Can we cope with the situation now? If there’s doubt as to any of these questions, the stress response goes into high gear (McEwen & Lasley, 2002).
Occupational Therapy and Stress:
Occupational Therapists can assist with managing stress on a day to day basis by providing techniques and coping strategies you can use at home to manage your stress. Below you will find some strategies that may be able to help you with stress management at home.
Stress Management Techniques:
Writing: It may help to write about things that are bothering you. Write for 10 to 15 minutes a day about stressful events and how they made you feel. Or think about starting a stress journal. This helps you find out what is causing your stress and how much stress you feel. After you know, you can find better ways to cope.
Let your feelings out: Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to. Talking with friends, family, a counsellor, or someone you trust about your feelings is a healthy way to relieve stress.
Do something you enjoy: This can be: A hobby, such as gardening, creative activity, such as writing, crafts, or art, Playing with and caring for pets, Volunteer work.
You may feel that you’re too busy to do these things. But making time to do something you enjoy can help you relax and it might also help you get more done in other areas of your life.
Focus on the present: Meditation and guided imagery are two ways to focus and relax your mind.
- Meditation: When you meditate, you focus your attention on things that are happening right now. Paying attention to your breathing is one way to focus http://www.mindtools.com/stress/RelaxationTechniques/Meditation.htm
- Use guided imagery. With guided imagery, you imagine yourself in any setting that helps you feel calm and relaxed. You can use audiotapes, books, or a teacher to guide you http://www.the-guided-meditation-site.com/learn-about-meditation.html
Ways to relax your body
Exercise: Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Walking is a great way to get started. Even everyday activities such as housecleaning or yard work can reduce stress. Stretching can also relieve muscle tension. For more information about becoming more active, see the topic Fitness.
Try techniques to relax: Breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and yoga can help relieve stress http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_relief_meditation_yoga_relaxation.htm, http://www.yogajournal.com/.
Breathing exercises: These include roll breathing, a type of deep breathing. For more information, see: http://cas.umkc.edu/casww/brethexr.htm
If none of these techniques work for you, you may benefit from a consultation with your local Occupational Therapist or Coach. You can find out local Therapists in your area by using search engine or referral from your GP.