Good stress, bad stress

Everyone needs a certain amount of stress to live well. It's what gets you out of bed and gives you the vitality to do all sorts of things, such as sport and presentations.

Everyone needs a certain amount of stress to live well. It's what gets you out of bed and gives you the vitality to do all sorts of things, such as sport and presentations.

Stress becomes a problem when there's too much or too little. Not enough means your body is under-stimulated, leaving you bored and isolated. To find stimulation, some people do things that are harmful to themselves (such as taking drugs) or society (committing crime).

Too much stress, on the other hand, can result in headaches, stomach upsets, high blood pressure and even stroke or heart disease. It can also cause feelings of distrust, anger, anxiety and fear, which can destroy relationships.

People often feel over-stressed because of some event or trigger. It doesn't have to be negative (death of a loved one, redundancy or divorce); it can be positive (a new partner, new job or going on holiday). Such feelings can also be acute (death or loss of a job) or chronic (coping with long-term unemployment or a bad relationship).

Stress-busters:

To cope with stress, many people look to things that are not only ineffective, but also unhealthy. Negative stress-management techniques include:

l Drinking alcohol;

l Denying the problem;

l Taking drugs;

l Overeating;

l Smoking;

You are better off trying:

A nap - 30 to 40 minutes;

A massage - at a professional massage therapist or ask a friend or partner;

A hobby - divert your energies into something creative such as acting, playing an instrument, writing poetry or singing;

Laugh - it will make you feel and look better;

Be gentle to yourself - we talk to ourselves all the time, even though we're not aware of it. Self talk determines our attitudes and self-image, so change both with positive chat.

Time management:

Ask any woman what makes her stressed and she'll tell you it is not having enough hours in the day.

We juggle choices, anxious to please family, workmates and friends. But what about your priorities? What goals do you want to achieve - and what's most important to you? Try these tips:

Set aside time to think and write about your life and goals. Writing a "mission statement" can help you work out what's important to you: what you'd like to be and to accomplish.

Understand where you spend your time - think about how to prioritise and itemise pressures. Categorise your life in neat important, quite important and unimportant boxes or would a more complex chart suit you: urgent and important, important, but not urgent, urgent, but not important and neither urgent nor important?

Review roles - This will help create order and balance.

Identify goals - work out a goal in each role for a week. They don't have to be activities, but can be being more patient with your kid.

Organise your week - use a week-at-a-glance diary or drawing up your own chart. If something prevents you from completing an activity, just fit it in elsewhere or make it the first thing you plan for next week.

Evaluate your week - at the end of the first week, take a realistic look at how it went.

Enjoy success - no schedule guarantees instant success, but remember you're in control.

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