I have chosen the topic of stress and coping for my psychology reflection paper. This course provided in-depth information on stress, coping with stress, and the favorable or unfavorable aspects that stress has on our psychological makeup. It also clearly defines the psychological factors that create social dysfunctions, the methods of psychological research, and treatment theories that assist us with stress-related coping.
I discovered that psychophysiological disorders are in fact physical disorders, in which our emotions are believed to play a central role. The stress factors that people routinely face lead to disorders on both a mental and physical basis. A common misconception, shared by me prior to completing this course, was that people who suffer from psychophysiological disorders are not “really” sick. I now realize that psychological disturbances such as stress can easily impact on the human anatomy in the same manner as any disease. A good example would be a peptic ulcer that has been caused by stress. This ulcer is indistinguishable from an ulcer that may have been caused by an overuse of medication.
This course effectively discussed the effects that stress has on our health, productivity, budget, and lives. I learned that a degree of stress is necessary; even desirable. It excites or challenges us to achieve better results. Experiencing events such as the birth of a child, completion of a major project at work, or moving to a new city, can generate as much stress as any tragedy or disaster. But without it, life would be dull.
Through this course I have found that stress reducers help individuals regain a sense of control and equilibrium. Some stress reducing strategies may relieve the immediate stress symptoms but others may require developing new behavior patterns to cope with the stresses of life. Some of these strategies include:
1. Relaxing – Close your eyes and breathe for 10 minutes. Think of relaxing places and blot all else out.
2. Exercising – Relaxed muscles make relaxed nerves. Take a brisk walk at lunch or choose some other exercise that is comfortable and realistic.
3. Eating Right – Develop eating habits that fit your situation but limit fat, sugar and salt.
4. Talking to a Friend – Find someone who won’t butt in and give advice. Find someone who listens.
5. Not Relying on Alcohol or Drugs – Moderation of some substances may be fine but if used to avoid problems, they may lead to abuse or addiction.
6. Confronting the Situation – Often, to avoid dealing with something is more stressful than addressing it directly.
7. Prioritizing Your Responsibilities – Decide what is more important. You don’t have to do everything.
8. Doing Something for Yourself – Listen to music; go shopping; read a book. Choose something you enjoy.
9. Seeking Professional Help – If nothing seems to work, allow a professional counselor to assist you in getting “unstuck”.
The subject of stress has become a favorite topic in everyday conversation. It’s not unusual to hear my friends, coworkers, and family members talk about the difficulty they have with managing the stress of everyday living. We talk about being burned out, overwhelmed and “losing it.” We also talk about our efforts to control the events that cause stress.
Most of us understand the results of not controlling our reactions to stress. But we are generally unaware of the many other emotional, cognitive and physical consequences associated with unmanaged stress.
We learn to interpret our experiences very early in life. We learn from our parents, our teachers, and our peers. Those of us who have children know that they are natural mimics. I constantly see my kids imitate and assimilate the behavior they see. A good example of interpretation would be a thirteen-year-old who wants to understand her developing sexuality. Her mother says, “Ask your teacher.” Her teacher says, “Ask your minister.” Her minister says, “Ask your mother.” From this conspiracy of silence she learns to assign a meaning to sex and sexuality: “It’s something too awful to discuss.”
Parents and teachers aren’t the only ones who train perceptions. We learn to assign meanings from the very culture we live in—ethnic groups, neighborhoods, colleagues, churches, geographic locations, and friends. In addition, television, books, movies, billboards, newspapers and magazines are powerful influences on the way we view the world.
I think one of the most intriguing things about this topic is that stress will always be a constant in our daily life. As we move towards the millennium, there will be increasing competition in most areas of business and industry. (The falling trade barriers and competition from developing countries will see to that.) The successful companies will be those with the most efficient and highly motivated workforce – and that means those which pay due regard to the physical and mental health of their employees.
The first step in coping with stress is recognizing the signs that indicate a buildup of stress. The manner in which we cope with stressful situations can determine our future physiological stability.
There is no such thing as a stress free life. In fact a certain amount of stress improves performance; I have worked with several senior executives that feel stress is related to the business and employees should be able to cope on their own. They feel that their responsibility is to make profits for the shareholders, not to “mollycoddle” the employees.
It has been acknowledged that many of the people who get to more senior jobs are relatively tough and resilient. For that reason they may find it hard to understand why some of their subordinates find difficulty in coping. This view, however, is fast changing. Just as employers can generate stress, they can also help to alleviate it. Poor employee health costs money and a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. The introduction of technology, e.g. fax and email, means that the pace of work is increasing. People expect quicker answers to questions. People are also becoming more accessible as a result of the mobile phone and pager. They are not able to “get away from work” to totally relax.
The goal of stress management is to show people that stress is a normal part of a healthy life, which can, however, get out of control. We can increase our coping skills but ideally we should seek to eliminate or reduce the sources of stress. It is important to be able to recognize – in oneself and others – when stress levels are becoming too great, and to do something about it before overload is reached: that is to learn ‘stress management skills’.
When you start to feel stress, first retrace your steps until you find the event you have perceived as threatening. Second, identify what meaning you attached to the experience. Finally, if you don’t like the way you feel, you can consciously change your mind and choose a different, more positive interpretation.
I believe that the study of psychology is very interesting and worthwhile. Since psychology affects so many aspects of our life, I feel that it’s essential for everyone, even if they don’t intend to specialize in the field, to know the basic facts and methods. This course and others like it are instrumental in giving us a better understanding of why people think and act as they do. Psychology affects our life through its influence on laws and public policy. It also provides insight to our social attitudes and reactions, which ultimately assist us in dealing with the trials and tribulations of everyday life.