How to Gain Maximum Benefit From This Course
"Knowledge alone is not enough, it is the application of that knowledge that produces the result."
The strategies in this course have been shown by research to help with stress. In order to obtain the maximum possible benefits it is important to follow these guidelines:
ÿ Do not make too many changes at once. Study one session at a time; implement the strategies, and when you have done this move onto the next session.
ÿ Effective Stress Management is a process, not an outcome. It is a daily process. (Brian Luke Seaward)
ÿ Read and re-read these Stress Management for Health course notes and practise the skills on a regular basis, keep practising them even when stress is no longer a problem, they will help you reduce the chance of stress occurring again.
ÿ Do not expect instant, overnight results, research has shown these strategies work - but they take time.
ÿ Do not make any sudden changes in your life, such as changing your job or ending a relationship, until your stress has been resolved.
ÿ Stress management, although valuable, is not a panacea for all ills.
ÿ Do not self-diagnose yourself as suffering stress; it is important to see your GP in order to receive an accurate diagnosis, because there are medical conditions whose symptoms can be very similar to those of stress.
ÿ It is important to complete all the sessions of this course in order to gain the maximum, potential benefits.
ÿ Most stress (pressure) is normal and healthy, and can be coped with; prolonged or more serious stress may need help from your GP.
ÿ Under no circumstances should you stop taking any medication your doctor has prescribed.
ÿ It is important to read the recommended books listed at the end of each session to improve your knowledge of stress and Stress Management Techniques.
"Stress, like Einsteins theory of relativity, is a scientific concept which has suffered from the mixed blessing of being too well known and too little understood." (Dr Hans Selye)
Stress, or to be more accurate pressure, is an unavoidable part of everyday life, meaning different things to each of us. You only have to pick up a newspaper, read a magazine, watch television, listen to the radio or walk into any High Street bookshop to see the many books and articles written on the subject of Stress to realise that we perceive it to be a big problem. Stress is much more recognized than it used to be, we have become very aware of the potential negative impact of stress on our health. Yet despite all of this information and wealth of knowledge, stress still remains vague and not very well understood. There are also many myths about stress that are not accurate and this further confuses the subject.
Life in the 21st Century is infinitely far more complex than it has ever been. We were never designed to live in this complex, modern world with its many demands on us. We live in a crowded, noisy, society that we often refer to as the rat race. Our lives are run by deadlines, the clock, modern technology, mobile phones, pagers, faxes, computers and satellites and a hundred other demands and pressures.
Many of us have too many tasks and too little time. We drive our children through traffic-clogged roads to maybe two or three different schools. We then try to get to work on time, through congested roads with millions more cars than there used to be, or we deal with delayed trains as we commute hundreds of miles to work. While we are at work we have to operate computers, learn newer versions of software, deal with faxes, phones, manage many tasks and people, often without adequate training or support. There are no longer jobs for life and many people are working under temporary or short-term contracts.
Research has shown that today we have fewer friends than we used to and live in a more fragmented, isolated society with lower levels of social support, which is an important buffer of stress.
We are less physically active, eat poorer diets, there is a greater amount of pollution, higher crime rates, greater urbanisation (it is known that there is a higher incidence of stress related problems like stress, anxiety and depression in urban areas than in rural areas), increased drug and alcohol misuse, we see daily the many world tragedies of famine, flood and war beamed directly into the television in our homes, we have higher levels of debt and we no longer have a religious faith to rely on.
Even our children are not immune from the effects of excessive pressure Dr Lori Buffa, an American Paediatrician said, the 21st Century has:
"A lot of stressors that 30, 40 and even 50 years ago children did not have to deal with. Everything is very fast paced. The level of stimuli they are exposed to is so much higher than it used to be."
However, contrary to popular myth, stress is not a unique problem to the 21st Century, human kind has suffered stress since the dawn of human evolution. Modern society however, has undergone more complex change in the span of a few short years than in the whole of human evolution, and this is partly why stress has become more of a problem today.
There are many benefits to living in our fast paced, modern industrialized world, however the same society has created complex demands on our psychological and physiological health. We dont need to return to the stone age to regain our health and its impossible to remove all stress (pressure) from our lives, but what we do need to do is learn to deal with it in a more positive, less destructive manner, using our skills and knowledge of stress to learn how to reduce its impact on our lives.
It is impossible to remove all the pressures from life but we can learn strategies for stopping excessive pressure developing into stress; the strategies you will need are taught to you through this course.
What is Stress
"Stress is the response by the body and mind to either too much or too little pressure." (D. Clarke and S. Palmer)
There are many definitions of the word stress, but it is often used loosely to mean distress. In order to help us understand the concept of stress and to remove any ambiguity and misunderstandings, it is important to clarify what we actually mean by the term stress. Stress, however is a somewhat difficult concept to define largely because it is such a unique, individual and subjective experience. What one person may regard as stressful another person may not.
The term stress has become an umbrella term, overused and misunderstood, meaning different things to different people. It is used at one extreme to describe minor events like being caught up in a traffic jam or having an argument, right up to the other extreme where some people use it, incorrectly, to describe clinical depression (which is not stress). This is partly the cause of some of the confusion that surrounds the subject of stress.
To complicate the matter further some people use the term stress to describe the causes of their stress and others use the term to describe their physiological, psychological and behavioural reactions in response to the external event.
Stress versus Pressure
It used to be thought that there were two types of stress Eustress (good stress) and Distress (bad stress) and that a certain amount of good stress was required to stimulate and challenge us. However recent research has indicated that this view of good/bad stress is incorrect and that all stress is bad. It is correct to say, however, that we need a certain amount of stimulus to make life interesting and to be at our most efficient, but this stimulation should be called Pressure, which is different from stress. If pressure is excessive for too long, however, it can develop into stress. The point at which pressure develops into stress will be different for different people. Research by Yerkes and Dodson, who developed the Performance Curve, shows that a small amount of pressure improves our performance, but stress reduces our performance and efficiency.
Psychologist Professor Cary Cooper PhD, of The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), very aptly summed up the difference between stress and pressure when he wrote:
"Research has shown that there is a physiological difference between stress and pressure. A person experiencing stress has higher levels of the various hormones in their blood stream than a person who is merely challenged." (Cary Cooper)
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Session 1: Stress - The Fight/Flight Response