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Stress Management

"A widely accepted definition of stress, attributed to psychologist and professor Richard Lazarus, is, "a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize."

Many of us experience stress in life, whether this is in the short term from one-off projects, or long-term stress from a high-pressure career.

Not only can this be profoundly unpleasant, it can seriously affect our health and our work. However, it is possible to manage stress, if you use the right tools and techniques.

Let's discuss what stress is, what increases your risk of experiencing it, and how you can manage it.

Stress produces numerous physical and mental symptoms which vary according to each individual's situational factors.

We have two instinctive reactions that make up our stress response. These are the "fight or flight" response, and the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). Both of these reactions can happen at the same time.

It's a basic, short-term survival response, which is triggered when we experience a shock, or when we see something that we perceive as a threat.

Our brains then release stress hormones that prepare the body to either "fly" from the threat, or "fight" it. This energizes us, but it also makes us excitable, anxious, and irritable.

The problem with the fight or flight response is that, although it helps us deal with life-threatening events, we can also experience it in everyday situations – for example, when we have to work to short deadlines, when we speak in public, or when we experience conflict with others.

In these types of situations, a calm, rational, controlled, and socially-sensitive approach is often more appropriate.

GAS, which Hans Selye identified in 1950, is a response to long-term exposure to stress.

Selye found that we cope with stress in three distinct phases:

The alarm phase, where we react to the stressor.

The resistance phase, where we adapt to, and cope with, the stressor. The body can't keep up resistance indefinitely, so our physical and emotional resources are gradually depleted.

The exhaustion phase, where, eventually, we're "worn down" and we cannot function normally.

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