Do you struggle under pressure? Let’s face it – successful business is built on successful relationships. Your career success depends on how other people feel about you and how well they support you. The problem is that you only need to fly off the handle once to damage a relationship profoundly. Rebuilding broken relationships takes a lot more time and effort than building new relationships due to the fact that you need to earn back broken trust and rebuild your damaged reputation. The good news is that you can learn how to cope with your own anxiety and stress and to control your emotions.  Prevention is better than cure!


Good stress

The stress response (fight or flight response) is critical for survival during emergency situations, such as protecting yourself when attacked.  It comes in very handy at a time when the pressure is on but when there is no real danger – like delivering a presentation to the Board; a first date; or writing an exam. Good stress doesn’t last long and can help you to perform really well. Once the crisis or stressful situation is over, the nervous system returns to normal.


Bad stress

A new job; divorce; the birth of a new baby or moving home can cause stress that won’t allow the nervous system to return to normal. Long-term stress is harmful due to the constant flow of stress hormones released into the body over a long period.  This causes fatigue, nervousness, insomnia, heart palpitations, emotional outbursts, feelings of hopelessness etc.


Causes of bad stress

Constant conflict in a relationship.

  • Death of a loved-one.
  • Being bullied or abused.
  • Too much responsibility.
  • Not enough or no support when you need it.
  • Misunderstandings.
  • Aggression or violence.
  • Disabilities.
  • Trauma, such as rape or an accident.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Sleep disorders.
  • Ill health.
  • Mental illness such as Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar, depression or anxiety etc.


Symptoms of stress overload

  • Anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Depression.
  • Feelings of constant pressure to deliver.
  • Mood swings and irritability.
  • Headaches and other physical symptoms like stomach or chest pains.
  • Insomnia.
  • Addiction like alcohol, smoking, overeating, drugs etc.
  • Anger and aggression.


Dealing with stress overload

Much can be said about learning to manage your stress. The most important thing to remember is to learn how to deal with all your stress – good or bad.  Stress-management skills are not only for when things go wrong, but also for the times when you’re dealing with “good” stress, like an important presentation or speech.


How to control stress

  • Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress.
  • Learn relaxation techniques – and use them. Breathing exercises help to get more oxygen to the brain – it’s the quickest way to calm your self down.
  • Drink less caffeine and alcohol.
  • Check your expectations. Are they too high?
  • Sleep is a natural stress reliever. Go to bed early for a few nights.
  • Do not work too hard. Cut out some activities if you are constantly too busy.
  • Be realistic. No-one is perfect.
  • Do something pleasurable like reading, watching a movie or taking a long bath. Spoil yourself with a treatment at a spa or salon like a full-body or Indian head massage.
  • Your thoughts are affirmations. Be deliberately optimistic.
  • Learn some skills that will help you to solve problems calmly. It will build your self-esteem if you can learn to solve your own problems without stressing out.


Control your emotions under pressure

Some people have a natural ability to cope with good and bad stress. You can train yourself to cope with stress by developing the following attitudes and behaviours:

  • Embrace change as a challenge.
  • Take deep breaths in the heat of the moment to calm your self down.
  • Do not lash out at anyone. Remain calm and in control. It really is a choice.
  • View setbacks, issues and problems as temporary and resolvable.
  • Acknowledge that you will succeed if you keep working towards your goals and objectives.
  • Take deliberate action to solve problems.
  • Build lasting relationships with others in order to have a strong support system.
  • Ask for help when you need it instead of complaining about your circumstances.
  • Partake in pleasurable activities and have some fun on a regular basis.
  • Think positive, up-lifting, optimistic thoughts.
  • Start to view problems as temporary challenges and lessons.
  • Set attainable, clearly defined goals with deadlines. Write them down and keep track of your progress.


Elsabé Manning

References: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD, Steven Dowshen, MD, Edward Woomer, LCSW