Nthabiseng Motsa is an author of the book, The Untangled Heart. She is also a Mental Wellness Facilitator and Healer. Nthabi talks to us about what causes stress, how to identify stressors and be able to deal with stress at home or in the workplace. She does one on one meetings, group meetings as well as families to assist people with managing stress and generally she advocates for everyone’s wellbeing. According to Nthabiseng, research shows that it is one of the killer diseases if not taken care of. To most people, it’s a very foreign phenomenon and that’s why a lot of people are killed by it. If not handled well, and it becomes long-term, it can seriously interfere with one’s job, family life, and health.
What is stress? Stress is anything that brings a drastic change; it could be psychological, environmental, or emotional, and takes you out of your place or space of comfort or a place of peace. Anything that causes you to be out of harmony within yourself is considered a stressor. In other words, the events that occur outside of your place of safety for example, It can be even on the news, an email, a phone call, anything that gives you an unsettling feeling is a stressor. You need to be aware of those stressors so that you are able to attend to them. Because of the world we live in, it’s fast paced and very competitive, it becomes quite difficult to notice when you are stressed.
What causes stress?
Everyone has different stress triggers. Stress related to work is number one on the list, according to research conducted. Those in the employment market will admit that most of their stress comes from their jobs. Causes of work stress may include but not limited to the following:
- Having poor management and unclear expectations of your work or being excluded from the decision-making process. You are just informed and expected to just do, no one asks for input.
- Fear of losing your job because of the kind of management you work under.
- Facing discrimination or harassment at work, especially if your company you work for is not supportive.
- Having a heavy workload or too much responsibility and working long hours.
Apart from work stress, life in general comes with its own kind of burdens that cause people stress and have a huge impact on one’s life. For example:
- Emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, anger, grief, guilt, and sometimes low self-esteem.
- Taking care of an elderly or sick family member – it’s never an easy task having to provide care for a loved one, it takes a toll on anyone.
- Traumatic events, such as, theft, rape, or violence against you or a loved one. No one wants to be violated, and when such things happen, it robs one of their peace.
These are just but a few stressors that life poses, but there are many more, including a divorce, losing your income, death of a loved one or heartbreaks. We can go on and on, there are so many. It is also good to note that, stress does not only happen physically, but can also be internal – you know, it can come from the inside and not the outside. Most of us can admit that we are ”chronic neurotics”. Chronic worriers exhibit one or two of these traits:
- Sadness, moodiness, anxiety – Having dramatic shifts in how you are feeling. You can’t really place their disposition at any given time.
- Self- doubt, low self-esteem, lack of confidence
- Feeling overlooked or unappreciated, always having the victim mentality.
- Poor emotional stability and as a result you are unable to handle stress very well.
- Any significant life change can be stressful – unpleasant events, such as a divorce, financial setbacks, or death in the family can be significant sources of stress.
Effects of stress on our health
Our stress level will differ based on the individual’s personality and how they respond to what is happening around them. When stress becomes long-term and is not properly addressed, it affects one’s health. The constant rush of stress hormones can put a lot of wear and tear on your body, causing it to age more quickly and making it more prone to illness. When you are in a stressful situation, your body launches a physical response which usually manifests as severe health conditions such as:
- Lack of concentration
- You start to have difficulty sleeping
- You find yourself easily and often irritable
- Constant headaches
- High blood pressure and heart attacks
- Weight gain or loss
- Loss of appetite or unusual appetite
How to identify stressors
Stressors are described as events or conditions in your surroundings that may trigger stress. Your physical body then responds to stressors differently depending on whether the stressor is new or short term, also known as acute stress, or whether the stressor has been around for a while, also called, chronic stress. Effective stress management starts with identifying your sources of stress and developing strategies to manage them. One way to do this is to make a list of the situations, concerns or challenges that trigger your stress response.
How to manage stress
Strategies to manage stressors include lifestyle factors such as:
- Eating a healthy diet, being physically active and getting enough sleep — which help boost your resiliency.
- Asking for help from others, learning to be assertive, and practicing problem-solving and time management.
- Use your time and energy well by focusing on activities that are important to you, paring down the number of activities you are involved in.
- Reframe your thoughts and choose a positive mindset and challenge negative thoughts.
- Use relaxation techniques and talk to a trusted friend or counselor.