Stress: 5 Steps to Balance Resources and Demand

We all have stressful times in our lives and for the most part we recover and learn from these challenging periods. However, chronic stress can be very dangerous. It disrupts nearly every system in our body. It can shut down our immune system, upset our digestive and reproductive systems, raise blood pressure, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, speed up the ageing process and leave us vulnerable to many mental and physical health problems.

Common perceptions of stress are reflected in expressions that describe facing demands that are daunting including “having too much on your plate;” “biting off more than you can chew;” “spreading yourself too thin;” or “feeling snowed under.” However, stress is more accurately understood as an imbalance between demands and the resources available to tackle them. Thus the solution is to both reduce demands where possible and increase resources.

5 steps towards a balance between resources and demand:

1 Generate a list of all the things that you find replenishing or nourishing, including activities that are calming or pleasurable. Also identify people you know who you find calming, energising, understanding, or accepting.

2 Using a weekly planner or any other form of activity log, account for all of your time spent in an average week, including time spent sleeping. Also account for the people you spend time with.

3 Identify which of the activities and/or people in your log deplete your energy and which you find nourishing or replenishing. You may discover how little you do that is calming or energising and will develop an idea of where you need to strike a better balance.

4 Consider whether there are any steps you can take (big or small) to reduce time spent on depleting activities and people. For example, do you leave it until the last minute to leave for work, which makes the journey more stressful than need be? If so, could you leave five or ten minutes earlier to make the start to your day less stressful? Do you spend more time than is necessary with people who leave you feeling drained?

5 Set goals to increase resources. See if there are any pockets of time where you could build them in. For example, could you go to bed earlier to get more sleep? Could you get away from work for a five-minute walk in a local park? Could you go into a quiet space at work and do a 3-minute meditation or relaxation exercise? Between tasks, could you stop and listen to a piece of music you find calming or energising? Could you walk part of the way home with a good friend? On your days off, is there any room for more pleasurable or calming activities, or for connecting with supportive people?

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