Stress Reduction

Scroll through the list below to find answers to some frequently asked questions and resources.
    Stress can be defined as the response to something that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. Anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being causes stress. Some amount of stress is positive; without any stress at all, life would be boring.

    We generally use the word "stress" when we feel that everything feels too much - we are overloaded and wonder whether we really can cope with the pressures placed upon us. Some situations, although not negative, may still be perceived as stressful. This is because we think we are not completely prepared to cope with them effectively.

    Examples of stressors include having a baby, moving to a nicer house, and being promoted. Even though these are wonderful life events, any of these positive experiences can potentially cause you to feel stress. It is possible for a person to feel stressed without an identifiable cause. Feelings of frustration, anxiety, and depression can make some people feel stressed more easily than others.
    A stressor is an event or stimulus that causes stress. Stress is the feeling we have when under pressure, while stressors are the things we respond to in our environment. Examples of stressors are noises, unpleasant people, a speeding car, or even going out on a first date. Generally, but not always, the more stressors we experience, the more stressed we feel.
    Not all stress is bad. All animals have a stress response, which can be life-saving in dangerous situations. When stressed, your body produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, which trigger a higher heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness. This response helps you fight or escape the danger. In the short term, it can even boost the immune system. Problems occur if the stress response goes on too long, such as when the source of stress is constant, or if the response continues after the danger has subsided.

Effects on Your Body:

  • Increased sweating
  • Back pain
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle aches, cramps or spasms
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fainting spells
  • Headache
  • Heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Loss of libido
  • Lower immunity against diseases
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Stomach upset

Effects on Your Thoughts & Feelings:

  • Anger or irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Burnout or fatigue
  • Depression
  • Feeling of insecurity
  • Forgetfulness
  • Problem concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness

Effects on Your Behaviour:

  • Eating too much or too little
  • Food cravings
  • Nail biting
  • Sudden angry outbursts
  • Drug abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Higher tobacco consumption
  • Social withdrawal
  • Frequent crying
  • Relationship problems

The Most Common Stressors:

  • Bereavement
  • Family problems
  • Financial difficulties
  • Illness
  • Work
  • Lack of time
  • Moving to a new home
  • Relationships (including divorce)

Other Causes of Stress:

  • Abortion
  • Becoming a parent
  • Conflicts in the workplace
  • Driving in bad traffic
  • Fear of crime
  • Losing your job
  • Schoolwork
  • Miscarriage
  • Noisy neighbors
  • Overcrowding
  • Pollution
  • Pregnancy
  • Retirement
  • Too much noise
  • Uncertainty (awaiting laboratory test results, academic exam results, job interview results, etc)
    Stress management therapy teaches specific techniques to help you deal with your stress. Stress management can help you remove or change the source of stress, alter the way you view a stressful event, lower the impact that stress might have on your body, or teach you alternative ways of coping. Since stress impacts your body, mind, and emotions, therapy often targets all three. Some examples of stress management techniques include deep breathing, problem-solving, and incorporating pleasurable activities into your life.
  • Exercise - exercise has been proven to have a beneficial effect on a person's mental and physical state. For many people exercise is an extremely effective stress buster.

  • Division of Labour - try to delegate your responsibilities at work, or share them. If you make yourself indispensable, the likelihood of your feeling highly stressed is significantly greater.

  • Assertiveness - don't say yes to everything. If you can't do something well, or if something is not your responsibility, try to seek ways of not agreeing to do them.

  • Reduce Alcohol and Drugs - alcohol and drugs will not help you manage your stress better. Either stop consuming them completely, or cut down.

  • Caffeine - if your consumption of coffee and other drinks that contain caffeine is high, cut down.

  • Nutrition - make sure you have a healthy and balanced diet.

  • Time - make sure you set aside some time each day just for yourself. Use that time to organize your life, relax, and pursue your own interests.

  • Breathing - there are effective breathing techniques that will slow down your system and help you relax.

  • Talk - talk to you family, friends, work colleagues and your boss. Express your thoughts and worries.

  • Get Support - Stay in touch with people who can provide emotional and practical support. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations to reduce stress due to work burdens or family issues, such as caring for a loved one.

  • Relaxation Techniques - meditation, massage, or yoga have been known to greatly help people with stress.

  • Seek Professional Help - if the stress is affecting the way you function if you are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, have suicidal thoughts, or are using drugs or alcohol to cope.

Interactive Tools

Breathe2Relax Breathe2Relax || iTunes || Android
By National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2)

Breathe2Relax is a portable stress management tool which provides detailed information on the effects of stress on the body and instructions and practice exercises to help users learn the stress management skill called diaphragmatic breathing.
Headspace Meditation and Mindfulness Online || iTunes || Android
By Headspace Inc.

This app is designed to help you reduce stress by way of guided mindfulness meditation.
HealthyMinds HealthyMinds || iTunes || Android
By AnxietyBC

HealthyMinds helps you learn problem-solving skills to help deal with the stresses of daily life. You can use its Mood Tracking and Journal functions to measure progress and stay mindful of emotions. You can also access videos on stress reduction and breathing exercises to calm yourself.
    You Really Need to Relax: Effective Methods
    By University of Michigan Medical Center

    This is a quick read that will help you learn techniques for relaxation response, which allows you to be physically relaxed while remaining mentally alert.
    Relaxation Exercises
    By Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School

    This site provides easy-to-follow instructions regarding how to reduce stress with deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation techniques. Additionally, you can learn about how physical and auto-regulation exercises assist in managing daily stress.
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