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How to handle stressful situations

Updated on August 30, 2019
Beth Pipe profile image

I used to be very stressy, these days I'm a lot better. There's no magic cure but here's what helps me & the folks I train.

It never stops!

Life is stressful and just when you think you've got over one stressful situation another one comes along, so it's no good just wishing for it all to be over. Over the past few years we've personally faced massive job problems, ill health and loss of income leading to a potential loss of our home. Instead of panicking and sinking under the stress of it all we came out fighting and have fundamentally changed our lives; we moved 300 miles north, found a new way to support ourselves and are now so much better off than we were before. Not financially maybe but certainly mentally. (And you can find out how we did that here.)

The biggest hurdle for you to overcome is this: YOU are responsible for managing your stress. You cannot control the actions of those around you, you can only control yourself. If you don't subscribe to that belief then there's not a lot of point in reading any further as there's no magic solution that doesn't require at least some effort on your part.

What gets you stressed?

So what's causing the problems?

Different things will cause us different amounts of stress – and we all respond differently to different stress triggers, what one person finds a stressful situation another person will breeze through. In the table identify how much stress each of the things listed will cause you. I’ve left a couple of spare boxes at the bottom for you to insert any I’ve missed. Mark each stress trigger out of 10, with 10 being maximum amounts of stress and 0 being no stress at all.

Now put a tick next to those you encounter on a daily basis. The stressors you need to tackle first are those with the highest scores and those occurring most frequently.

Read through the following story and think about how stressed you’d be getting at each stage.

  • Despite leaving in plenty of time you’re now running late for your 9.30 appointment. Your calendar is back to back with important meetings for the whole day and you'll be lucky if you get any lunch.
  • You get held up in traffic on your way to the station. When you get there the ticket machine isn't working so you have to queue for a ticket but, after a mad dash over the footbridge, you just about make it to your train just as the doors are closing..
  • You squeeze your way into the carriage, there are no seats and people are crammed around the doorways. The train starts to move, albeit very slowly
  • A hundred metres or so down the line the train grinds to a halt in a tunnel. It has been stationary for the last fifteen minutes and there are no announcements.

Stressful situation? Ready to blow yet? Why? Simply do the things you can and let go of the stuff you have no control over. A couple of weeks back I was on my way to deliver a training course when my train was delayed by 3 hours. I just called ahead, explained what was happening and settled down with a good book. When I eventually arrived I was still in good shape to deliver the course.

Occasional stress won’t do us any lasting harm – but if we are continually under more pressure than we’re comfortable with we can start to do serious harm to our bodies.

Some useful literature

Stress Management For Dummies
Stress Management For Dummies
Dummies books are always such a good read.
 

So what exactly are we doing to ourselves?

When we are stressed the following is happening in our bodies:

  • Our heart rate increases.
  • Our muscles get tense and ready for action. (That's why your shoulders feel tight.)
  • Our breathing rate increases.
  • Our bodies start producing adrenaline and cortisol ready for fight or flight.
  • Because we're not fighting or 'flighting' these chemicals accumulate in our bodies.
  • This can impair our immune system. (Which is why you usually get sick when you're stressed - and that's the last thing you need!)
  • Our blood pressure rises.
  • Our digestive system slows - which is why you get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

In short you're doing yourself physical harm and potentially storing up big problems for later in life.


What NOT to do.

Stressful situations can bring out the worst in us. Cigarettes, alcohol, food, pills, chocolate. Tempting though they are, none of the above are a great idea in the long term. They may mask the symptoms (and pleasantly alleviate them for a while) but in the long term they make your body less able to cope with stress. They also don’t tackle the root causes of stress and, unless you do that, things won’t improve.

If you were going to enter a car into a long race you’d make sure it was in tip top condition before you started. And it’s the same with your body. Dull as it sounds there’s no better first step for dealing with stress than a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.

One other quick thing I ask myself if the stress is being caused by a particular individual or organisation is this: "Are they worth me lopping a few days/ weeks off my life for?" The answer is invariably no.

Think through the last week and make a note of how many times you responded to stress by resorting to one of the things above, and how many times you made a conscious effort to do something healthy.

How are you doing?

 
Tackled stress with unhealthy
Ate 5 portions of fruit & veg and/ or took 30 mins of exercise.
Monday
 
 
Tuesday
 
 
Wednesday
 
 
Thurday
 
 
Friday
 
 
Saturday
 
 
Sunday
 
 

Take charge!

Having been through a massively stressful situation myself over the past couple of years and having coached and trained many other people facing similarly large changes in their life, the one common factor is a feeling of being out of control. The feeling that your life is no longer your own and that what happens to you is dependent upon something, or someone, else.

The answer is straightforward, you need to retake control of things - even if it's only small things to begin with. For me it meant sitting down and working out our finances, drafting my CV and starting an online job hunt. (And if you want to know how to get stuck into that then you can find out here.)

A good wallow in self pity is OK every now and again - I call them "Bridget Jones evenings" - but they won't move you any further forwards in the long run. Having thought about it long and hard I came up with the diagram below to describe the process.

Vicious -v- Virtuous Circles.

Focus on practicalities to move into the top circle.
Focus on practicalities to move into the top circle.

So, what else can I do?

There are lots of different things you can do to tackle stress.
There are lots of different things you can do to tackle stress.

Laughter is the best medicine

The Dish
The Dish
One of my favourite films, always makes me smile.
 

One last thing.

Don’t pass it on! Ever heard the expression “He’s not stressed – but he’s a carrier”? If you’re stressed think about the effect it’s having on those around you. In a survey I carried out within a major law firm when I asked the questions “Can you tell when you’re manager is stressed” 82% of people said ‘yes’.

Some ways you can break the cycle:

  • Smile
  • Don’t join in with the blame culture
  • Communicate – lack of information often leads to increased stress
  • Give and accept support
  • Work together
  • Ask for help if you need it
  • In the book Gone with the Wind, Scarlett O’Hara says, “I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.” Good advice!
  • Listen to others
  • Be considerate
  • Get on top of your time management
  • If you’re a manager, encourage your team to take their breaks

Invest in some ‘me’ time. Make a list of things you enjoy doing that help you unwind. and remember to make time for yourself to do some of these things each day. Why? Well as those chaps at L'Oreal would say; "Because you're worth it."

Comments

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    • Sheila Ann Myers profile image

      Sheila A Myers 

      19 months ago from Elmira

      Nice work! I'm very "stressy"... Lol

    • LouisAlbert profile image

      LouisAlbert 

      8 years ago from Taipei

      Thanks. Laughing IS the best! I need to keep around funny videos, articles, pictures...

    • Beth Pipe profile imageAUTHOR

      Beth Pipe 

      9 years ago from Cumbria, UK

      Thank you for your kind comments, this world's a tricky old place and we need to pull together. Also thanks SunkenTreasure for the lovely poem. I love poetry but hadn't seen that one before.

    • sunkentreasure profile image

      BERNARD LEVINE 

      9 years ago from RUIMSIG, SOUTH AFRICA

      SECRETS OF LIFE By BERNARD LEVINE

      Look for the beauty

      in everything you see.

      Walk in peace

      showing kindness

      everywhere.

      The secrets of success

      are motivation

      and dedication

      Happiness is

      what you make happen

      for yourself.

      Caring is

      going to the ends of the world

      for a stranger.

      Be useful with your life.

      Whatever you are doing

      put your whole

      being into it 100%

      Loving is

      pleasing your loved one everyday

      in a 1000 different ways.

      Control your mind

      you are its master

      Be in control.

      Live your life

      without hurting or

      destroying.

      Believe in yourself.

      Have respect for yourself.

      Walk through life

      always with a song.

      © Bernard Levine

    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 

      9 years ago

      Great hub with great information and advice. Smiling and singing are two of my favorite ways to bring relief to the smallest to the largest stressors. Voted up.

    • Beth Pipe profile imageAUTHOR

      Beth Pipe 

      9 years ago from Cumbria, UK

      Thanks LadyLyell - the goodbyes were tough and did get me down at the time, but now there have been so many lovely hellos that it's all a distant memory and I'm still in touch with all my old friends so not so much of a goodbye after all.

      I hope your move goes smoothly and you're all settled in and making new friends in no time.

      Take care.

    • LadyLyell profile image

      LadyLyell 

      9 years ago from George, South Africa

      Hi Beth, who of us have not suffered stress? I've had my full share of it but have learnt to pace myself after it affected my health rather badly.

      I hope you have a happy future in your new home town and not being too stressed. Next year I have a move to make to another country (where I have previously lived) and already feeling the heartache of all the good-bys to make. I will try to be as strong as you have been.

      Wishing you happiness and good health!

    • Beth Pipe profile imageAUTHOR

      Beth Pipe 

      9 years ago from Cumbria, UK

      Thank you everyone for all your kind comments - I really do appreciate them all. Look forward to getting to know you all better.

      Have a fun day!

      Beth

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Great tips - definitely! My life is definitely stressful, but I do try to exercise and eat well. Rated up and off to go bookmark this one. Cheers, Steph

    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 

      9 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      A well written hub with some wonderful advice. My Gran used to tell me that stress was a killer. I do get stressed and will certainly be trying out your chart. Voted up and useful.

    • anupma profile image

      Dr Anupma Srivastava 

      9 years ago from India

      Great hub with awesome information. It is true through experience we get more knowledge. I pray to God that ur situation improve fast.

      Stress management is a good means to normalise the situations. Through it we can come out from any biggest problem. Thanx for sharing.

    • fucsia profile image

      fucsia 

      9 years ago

      Great Hub with useful advice and well written. Stress is an important problem for many but often it is not a problem in itself: it depends on how we manage it.

      Voted Up!

    • SanneL profile image

      SanneL 

      9 years ago from Sweden

      Great tips! Stress is a huge problem indeed.

      Welcome to HubPages!

      Sannel

    • Allen Williams profile image

      Allen Williams 

      9 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Very good information. I sure will give your tips a try. I have been through so much stress in the past several years and it has just continued to get worse. I can relate to this article. I voted up and useful.

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 

      9 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Hi Beth, your hub really shouted out to me because I can relate to those feelings of stress. I hold a lot of stress and tension in my shoulders. Taking a long deep breath does help, but I know that I should do more to minimize my stress levels. You have so many useful ideas here that I'm going to follow your advice. Voted up / useful / sharing and bookmarking!

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 

      9 years ago from Mid South, USA

      This is a great article, Beth. Very detailed and illustrated well. Voted UP.

      Welcome to HubPages!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      9 years ago from UK

      Hi Beth - great advice and practical solutions - thanks for sharing.

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