Managing stress in an overstimulating environment


by Traci Knight

Effectively managing stress is invaluable in today’s world.  When we encounter stressful situations the sympathetic nervous system triggers a fight or flight reflex.  There are many times when giving in to this stress response can impede performance. We cannot realistically take up arms or run away during work, a traffic jam, or while managing the activities of a busy household. These are the moments when it is most important for us to use wisdom in our behavior and also the time when it is the most difficult.  Focusing on action, rather than reaction, can be a key component to dealing with immediate and long term stress. Finding stability in the face of changing circumstances is called homeostasis and is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Handling immediate stress

Being able to mitigate the effects of a difficult encounter long enough to deal with the situation at hand is a crucial skill. Interacting with clients, angry drivers, crowds, relatives, deadlines, and important events is something that most of us have to do. Emotionality and reactivity contribute to poor handling of stress. Here are some tips for keeping calm during those times when your cortisol levels start to rise.


1. Control your reaction –  Stress hormones are released to provide additional energy to the body.  Energy is redirected to the skeletal muscles and the brain. Immune system cells are redirected and non critical activities suspended.  Blood pressure and cardiovascular output increase as cortisol redirects glucose to vital organs to supply extra energy.  It is important to recognize these physical signs while remembering that you are still in control of your own behavior.

2.  Stay organized – Disarray is conducive to stress.  Organize your thoughts first, to create a plan for dealing with an impending situation.  Focusing on your immediate environment will allow you a moment to gain equilibrium and process what is happening.  Moving forward in an organized fashion will lead to a better outcome.

3. Focus on breath – There is a reason that yogic and meditative disciplines focus on breath.  Awareness and control of breath helps alleviate physical and emotional pain.  It will prioritize oxygen to your brain and body, which you will need during a stressful situation.  It also redefines moments in time, which gives you space to make logical, wise decisions. 4. Drink water – Staying hydrated in the face of stress will help your brain stay productive and your tissues recover from the stress response. 5. Take a break – Removing yourself, if even for a few moments, from the stressor can be helpful.  It allows you to redirect your thought process and create a quick plan for dealing with the situation at hand.


Coping with long term stress

Productivity demands that people take on more responsibilities than we can fit into our days. Work family conflict is pervasive in our desire to provide material needs and psychosocial stimulation for ourselves and our family.  Many people are exposed to continual stress through marital relations, demanding jobs, lack of sleep, insufficient finances, and general lack of control within their environments.  People employ coping mechanisms based on evaluations of perceived threats.  Maladaptive coping methods can lead to feeling trapped and encourage continued stress. Prolonged stress can lead to tissue damage and disease as well as anxiety and depression. The coping methods listed below can help you move forward during extended periods of stress before you reach the breaking point.


1. Intervention – Action based decision making is important when dealing with stress.  While we may feel trapped in our situations, there are usually changes that we can make that will alleviate some of the difficulties.  Create a list of what can be changed immediately and those things that you can gradually work to change.

2. Perception – Perhaps the most important part of managing ongoing stress is to change your perception.  That doesn’t mean stop trying to make changes but it does require acceptance of the situation as it is.  Much of our ongoing stress is a result of decisions that we have made in the past.  Accepting where you and your role in getting there is a critical step toward making a different situation in the future.  The importance of staying positive cannot be overstated.  It will improve your interactions with others which will ultimately lead to less stress.

3. Don’t overcommit – Trying to do everything for everybody is a sure fire way to build stress.  Set realistic expectations for time management, including for children and work situations.  Prioritize what is important and learn to let other things go.

4. Take care of yourself – It is tempting to succumb to stress and binge eat, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or become a couch potato in your down time.  Although drugs and alcohol are commonly used to combat stress, the end result is bodily degradation and addiction. Since addictions are progressive, giving in to them will lead to long term stress.  When possible, eat healthily and exercise.  Remember, if you have time to do unhealthy activities then you can replace them with better ones.


5. Focus on gratitude – Gratitude is an evolved emotional state.  Changing your negative habitual thoughts to ones of appreciation and gratitude will do wonders for your well being as you commit to changing your situation to one that is more life enhancing.   Despite the fact that stress is pervasive in the modern world, it has come to be viewed as an individual concept that must be dealt through harm reduction techniques rather than a product of society that can be addressed through other means.  Identifying stressors and how the body handles stress will help you recognize it as it is happening.  Regaining homeostasis quickly is important to stabilizing your life.  Taking responsibility for your decision making is key to moving forward in an overstimulating society.  Stress can be reduced by making positive lifestyle choices and now is the perfect time to take that awareness and facilitate problem focused coping.

related content:



Categories: Natural Health

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: