Practical steps to gain control

Key points:

  • South Africa ranked 7th highest in the world for the prevalence of mood disorders
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) grimly predicts that mental ill-health will be the leading cause of death by 2020

Stress is a common risk factor for a wide variety of chronic disorders, more than what is often realised. According to findings from the first South African Stress and Health Study, South Africa is ranked 7th highest in the world for the prevalence of mood disorders and it is estimated that 10% of us will suffer from a mood disorder at some point in our lives1.

These findings are in line with global trends which suggest incidents of stress and mood-related disorders are increasing dramatically. For example, a recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that 32% of Americans are living with extremely high stress levels 2. Similarly, a report adopted by the European Parliament suggests that over 27 percent of European adults are affected by mental ill health and stress related conditions every year 3. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that 450 million people are affected by mental or neurological disorders globally and grimly predicted that mental ill-health will be the leading cause of death worldwide by 2020 4 5.

Stress – more pro’s than con’s. A certain amount of stress plays an important role in leading a productive and fulfilling life. While a small dose of stress can actually help motivate us to perform at our best, there are also many times when stress leaves us feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope and in need of additional support.

Overwhelmingly stressful circumstances include moving house, divorce, death, retrenchment or illness. These are all recognised events and it makes perfect sense to feel somewhat stressed under these conditions. However, on a daily basis, numerous minor events are encountered by life in general. Largely unrecognised, these also play a cumulative role in emotional depletion and the progressive escalation of stress levels.
To preserve your mental health and prevent this from escalating out of control, it is important to proactively manage your stress levels on a daily basis. The best way to do this is to use a combination of techniques.

Seven practical steps to help manage stress

Step 1: Back to the basics Follow a nutritious, balanced diet to optimise your mental and physical health. Avoid poisoning your brain and body with excessive amounts of alcohol, junk food or recreational drugs. Start exercising – numerous studies have demonstrated that regular exercise can be as effective as some of the world’s best-known anti-anxiety drugs. This is because the body naturally releases chemicals called ‘endorphins’ during exercise. These opiate-related chemicals give you a natural ‘high’ and can play a significant role in mood enhancement and relaxation.

Step 2: Take a brain supplement
NeuroVance™ is a new generation brain supplement that contains a blend of plant derived (phytochemical) ingredients recognised for their ability to help regulate mood and assist with concentration. Its multi-modal pharmaceutical action is achieved through its ability to enhance separate but interconnected components of brain function, thereby giving your brain a physiological advantage during busy and stressful periods. NeuroVance™ will benefit anyone suffering from mental exhaustion, stress or emotional hardship, and is the ideal supplement to take during times of greater work pressure, exams, conflict, bereavement or loss.

Step 3: Manage your mind
Bouts of acute stress tend to overload our minds to such a degree that we simply can’t think straight – as a result, logic and reason fly out the back door. Stress also activates a cycle of negative and repetitive thoughts to mill around in our heads like a stuck record. This process just consumes our mental reserves without any real benefit, especially when we can’t sleep at night. When this happens, distract your mind by giving it something totally different to think about in order to break the destructive and monotonous cycle. Remember the saying: “Troubles are a lot like children – they grow bigger if you nurse them.”

Once you have calmed down, focus on dealing with your problems positively and logically. Control all strong emotions and try to remain constructive. Be cautious of exaggeration and consider all your options in an objective manner. Fear and worry tend to turn us into pessimists and cynics, which can make us lose hope and later justify our failure. Do not allow yourself to get sucked into this self-destructive cycle.

Step 4: Manage your mouth
Stress tends to make us short tempered, irritable and bad-tempered. Nobody deserves this from anyone. Be aware and considerate to others, especially those close to you. Being temperamental and moody may increase your stress levels by straining your relationships.

Step 5: Implement better boundaries
Effective boundaries will significantly reduce your stress levels by protecting you from the constant demands and irritating behaviour of others. While the actual process of defining healthy boundaries is fairly simple, most people find this concept quite daunting. Actually, all you need to do is say ‘no’ sometimes, something you may not be naturally good at doing. Saying ‘no’ is easier to do if you are calm, polite and respectful. Saying ‘no’ when you are emotionally charged and short tempered can cause hostility and anger, which may lead to an argument. Being firm and consistent earns you respect from other people – over-reacting, being melodramatic and inconsistent does not.

Step 6: Manage conflict more effectively
Many people find it easy to engage in conflict. This is because they are naturally confrontational and not intimidated by others. Although they are often able to achieve their personal objectives, unfortunately this may come at a cost since they may also leave a path of destruction behind them regarding interpersonal relationships, especially with individuals who tend to avoid conflict. At the other extreme, many people go to great lengths to avoid conflict. They achieve this by suppressing their opinions, swallowing their pride and towing the line. Whilst this strategy may work over the short term, it’s very difficult to maintain within in a close working or personal relationship. This approach not only leads to more stress, but also growing feelings of bitterness, anger and resentment. There are many well-established techniques that will help you confront and manage conflict in order to achieve a positive outcome.

Step 7: Ask for help
We live in a web of relationships with family, co-workers, friends and healthcare providers. People who draw strength from these relationships are able to tackle challenges that they would not be able to master on their own. Problems never seem so overwhelming when you share them with others. Enlisting support is quite simple – all you have to do is to ask. Some people act as advisors and provide you with information, either in your personal or professional life. Others support or nurture you when times are tough. Contacts provide you with leads and are able to connect you with other people who will be able to assist you with your problem. It is unrealistic to expect this kind of support system from a single person. Think about what you need before you ask for advice, and when ready, ask the right person.

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