People across all work settings usually experience general as well as peculiar challenges associated with their kind of work. In a an “A” level school setting such as this, some challenges that the school staff may be faced with could be student related, academic related as well as other school-work related demands that may be stress provoking.
Stress is the psychological and physical reaction of the body to the challenges of everyday life. It is a normal and necessary part of life. However when stress becomes accumulated and unmanaged over time, it can result into several forms of emotional, cognitive, behavioural, as well as physiological or health related problems because accumulated stress increases the body’s susceptibility to illnesses by weakening the immune system.
Some of the emotional, cognitive, behavioural and physiological impairments include the following:
- Emotional problems associated with accumulated stress:
- Feeling depressed
- Becoming short fused or having frequent anger outbursts
- Persistent sadness
- Feeling emotionally drained
- Cognitive problems associated with accumulated stress:
- Concentration difficulty
- Decreased attention span
- Becoming more prone to errors
- Unusual forgetfulness
- Thought distortions
- Reduced alertness
- Inability to complete tasks leading to frequent procrastination
- Physiological problems associated with accumulated stress:
- High blood pressure
- Reduced energy level
- Unplanned weight loss/gain
- Frequent body aches & illnesses
- Day time sleepiness & night time sleep difficulty
- Burn out
- Loss of or increased appetite
- Behavioural problems associated with accumulated stress:
- Poor performance
- Attitudinal changes
- Increased lateness
- Eating or drinking problems
- Dependence on drugs or other stimulants to maintain performance
- Negligence of healthy routines
- Problems relating with others
Although completely eliminating stress maybe impossible as almost every event in life can be a source of stress including positive ones as well. Consequently, our experience of “being stressed” largely depends on individual differences and coping capability.
A DESCRIPTION OF STRESS EXPERIENCE
A more descriptive view of stress is that the experience of stress results from an individual’s “Cognitive appraisal” simply put, a cognitive appraisal is done when individuals appraise the actual demand (presenting demand) or their own perception of the demand (perceived demand) against their actual capability or their own perception of their capability (perceived capability). When there are discrepancies in the appraisal, it leads to the experience of stress. This simply means that when an individual perceives a demand to be greater than what he or she can handle (perceived capability) and underestimates his or her own capability, then such an individual will definitely experience stress.
The fact is that this cognitive appraisal is usually an unconscious process, therefore, we are unaware of it although it is one that is occurs on a daily basis
An individual’s ability to cope with stress is determined by the person’s level of resilience.
Resilience is the ability to withstand adverse events and stressful situations without falling apart, by actively and positively coping with stress – Stein and Book
Also, the American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as:
The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. Such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.
Being resilient does not mean that you are problem or challenge free. It is simply being able to cope and meet with challenges when they come. When you begin to view challenges as an opportunity for personal growth, then you have become resilient! In addition, you become able to strike a balance between work and personal life.
Resilient individuals are like bamboo in a hurricane, they bend rather than break…
You can cultivate resiliency through the following positive lifestyle changes
- Know yourself: Getting to understand yourself is the first step towards cultivating resilience and thriving all round. You have to understand your own body, emotions, behavioural patterns as well as response patterns to various situations. Let’s have a quick self-evaluation:
- How well do you know yourself?
Are you aware of your numbers and changes in them?
- Blood pressure
- Are you aware of your limits or breaking points?
- Do you know when to stop and take a break?
- How well do you know about your own responses to stressful events?
- Are you aware of unhealthy lifestyle practices that may be exaggerating your experience of stress?
- Are you aware of any recent changes in yourself, emotionally, physically, cognitively and/or behaviourally?
To cultivate resilience, we should carry out regular self-evaluation to monitor our progress or otherwise in order to nip the adverse effects of stress at the bud.
- Take good care of yourself: It is largely up to you to ensure and maintain all round wellness, physically, emotionally, socially as well as in other aspects of life. Sleep well, eat healthy, stay hydrated and exercise regularly.
- Replace unhealthy coping strategies with healthy ones: in a bid to cope with stress, people often develop certain strategies that may be hampering their health. Some of the common unhealthy coping strategies include;
- Alcohol consumption
- Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones
- Usage of drugs and other substances to improve performance, aid sleep or relax
- Taking out your stress on others
- Emotional eating
- Excessive sleeping
- Zoning out for long hours
Healthy coping strategies include the following:
- Mindfulness meditation: regular practice of mindfulness meditation is a great way to relieve stress at any time of the day. Through this practice, you learn to pay attention to the present moment as well as become aware of your internal responses to external stimuli. Then through intentional deep diaphragmatic breathing, you begin to regain of control of your thoughts patterns, decisions and responses to events. Mindfulness meditation is an evidence based technique to help cultivate resilience as regular practice can improve, attention/concentration, productivity, cognitive functions, immunity, sleep and overall wellness.
- Plan properly and stick to the plan: Plan your day, week, month, semester or session. Have plan B, plan C and if possible plan D Write down your plans rather than having them float in your memory and ensure to include short breaks in between your plans. In addition, reward yourself however little after every accomplishment.
- Engage in problem-focused coping skills: This involves learning to identify the sources of stress or triggers of stress and handling them appropriately. That way, you are able to regain control of the situation and prevent or minimize the outcomes of such stressful events.
- Proper time management skills: poor time management can lead to more stress because it makes room for disorganization and difficulty achieving or maintaining calmness. Learn to prioritize tasks, plan appropriately, set smart goals, make adequate preparations ahead of time to minimize rushes, make use of timers/alarms/reminders, make use of lists/schedules and other organizers to manage your time.
- Do something you enjoy every day: positive living helps to boost all round health. By engaging in activities that you find enjoyable, you will relieve stress and enjoy living.
- Make out time for fun and relaxation: fun and relaxation does the brain and body a lot of good. Don’t leave out fun to the younger ones alone. You are never too old to have fun as well. It is a way to relieve stress!
- Ask for help when necessary and get support: sometimes, all you need to overcome a challenge may be just a little support from someone or a group. Avoid being “a know it all” and seek help when needed. You may choose to speak with the school’s counselor, medical practitioner, colleague or other professionals or even a close friend or relative will do.
- Do your work in a way that is enjoyable to you: while adhering to your work ethics, you can organize your tasks in ways that you find enjoyable so that work becomes more interesting and fulfilling. Be flexible and open to changes as well.
- Develop problem solving skills: different kinds of problems can arise at work or at home. Developing adequate problem solving skills will enable you handle them when they arise. These skills include mental and logical skills which are developed by reason of use.
Respond to a resilience self-assessment scale
Questions and Answers