Stress is a common and normal physical reaction to things that are challenging or new. It has both mental and physical aspects, and is something that we all have to deal with. Stress can come from both internal and external factors, but how do we identify the cause and how to deal with it?
Brett and Kate Ryan from Focus on the Family recently joined us on Rise & Shine to talk about how stress impacts our lives. Everyone reacts differently to stress, but there are some things we can all do to manage it in a healthier way.
‘Stress gets a bad rap,’ says Brett. ‘But we do need a level of stress to build resilience and be able to cope when things don’t go to plan. Stress helps us formulate that ability to bounce back, and our children need to have it too. As adults, we need to continue to build up those muscles to develop coping strategies.’
Stress manifests itself in multiple ways, including physiological changes that increase heart rate, blood pressure and can cause gut health issues. It can also trigger symptoms like aches and pains, and be very disruptive to sleep patterns. When its encroaching on our daily lives, we need to be proactive.
‘What’s really interesting,’ says Kate, ‘is that some people will say they’re not stressed, but their body has taken it on. Their bodies are crashing. That can actually be an indicator that we are under a lot of pressure, and our body has taken it on rather than us recognising that we need assistance.’
Ask for Help
When we are not aware of the toll stress is taking, hopefully we’ve got people around us who can tell us. There are things that can become a regular source of stress, like work and family situations. If it’s relentless and affecting us every day, we need to put some things in place to help reduce that stress.
‘Obviously, you could be in denial as well,’ says Brett. ‘Someone might say to you, you must be undergoing a lot of stress, and you say no, I’m not. We like to wear that badge of honour that we’ve got it all together. It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to stay not okay. So we need to be able to stop and make a conscious decision, a mental note of where we are.’
We can ask ourselves questions like: How am I feeling? What am I experiencing how? Why am I reacting this way? Have I got a really short fuse? Am I angry or agitated? And then we have to decide what we’re going to do. It could be that we need some time out, and self-care is vitally important.
‘It may be that you need to seek some professional help or counselling,’ says Brett. ’You need to recognise that you can’t do it all on your own. You need some help in your corner.”
Kate believes we need to set out a plan. ‘That might be going for a walk every day or adding in some exercise,’ she says. ‘We need some de-stress time. It might be sitting on a park bench somewhere and reading or just watching kids play. Find whatever it is that recharges you.‘
Managing stress is something none of us should do in isolation. Whether you’re married or you’ve got close friends or family members, find people you can trust to ask for help. Take the time to talk to God, listen to podcasts and refill your tank. If you’ve got kids, take turns so that both parents get the chance to recharge.
Kate says that working together is just so important. ‘We need to encourage each other to stay healthy, both mentally and physically,’ she says.