Stress affects all of us to some degree. It is an inevitable part of
change. Change in our lives means variety. Variety adds spark and
color to life but it also brings challenges, demands and possible
This only becomes a problem when these challenges, demands and
threats appear to overwhelm us. Learning how to handle them is the
best way to attain a happier, healthier and stress free lifestyle.
To do this effectively we must first learn how our bodies respond to
stress. We also need to be able to identify potential sources of stress
and understand how they affect our health and performance.
This report will teach you how stress affects you as an individual. The
exercises and tests provided will help you pinpoint your personal
stressors and work out how your body responds to them. You will
then be able to tackle these stressors through simple but powerful
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The 3 Sides of Stress
Without stress (astress) life would be very boring. There would be no
growth or innovation. Our lives would stagnate. With too much
stress (distress), our lives hit overload. We find it harder and harder
to cope until we reach burnout.
Not all stress is bad stress. Some stress can enhance our
performance and lead to creativity and positive change. We call this
type of stress eustress and it is this which leads to peak performance
and incredible achievement.
For most of us, however, stress is what we feel when we can no
Your Health & Stress
Too much of the wrong kind of stress (distress) can lead to serious
health implications, especially if this is long term, or chronic, stress.
Some of the conditions associated with this type of stress include:
Increased risk of heart attack
Increased risk of strokes
Increased risk of certain cancers
High blood pressure
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Lowered immune and inflammatory responses in the body
Maintaining the balance between good and bad stress is often very
difficult. We know it has gone too far in the wrong direction when we
feel unable to handle the demand being placed upon us. In this
situation, our body’s response is a clear indication that something is
wrong. Learning to identify the signs of stress can literally turn out to
be a life saver.
Here are some of the signs of distress:
Physiological Emotional/Mental Behavioral
Pounding heart Irritability Sleeping more
Rapid breathing Nervous, edgy Sleeping less
Sweaty palms Lack of patience Eating more
Cold hands and feet Crying Eating less
Lack of energy Losing temper Angry outbursts
Headaches Worrying Withdrawing from others
Muscle tension Emotional sensitivity
Sleep difficulties Memory lapse
Stomach disturbances Lack of concentration
Increase in careless
The Stress Test
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If you are showing some of the signs and symptoms of distress then
the best way to deal with this is to tackle the underlying problem. In
order to do that, you need to identify what is causing you stress.
Take this quick stress test to find out how likely you are to be
stressed. Answer True or False to each of the following statements:
I am able to express my feelings
I get 7 or 8 hours sleep each night
I have enough income to look after
my basic needs
I drink fewer than 5 alcoholic drinks
I have at least 1 close friend I can
turn to for support
I smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes
I can discuss any family issues
easily with my family
I can organise my time well
My general health is good
Total up your answers and then score as follows:
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2 – 4 False Stress may be affecting you to some extent
More than 4 False Stress may be affecting you severely and you
need to take action
Stress & Your Emotions
Another good way to check your stress levels is to measure your
emotional responses to situations. There are some emotions which, if
experienced on a long term basis, can have a negative effect on your
health and wellbeing.
Check the emotions in the following table and see which you
experience frequently and which infrequently. Rate them on a scale
of 1 – 10, with 1 being rarely and 10 very often. You also need to rate
how intensely you feel these emotions on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being
If you are experiencing more than half these emotions constantly then
you need to take action. Any which you rate at more than 5 on the
intensity scale should be seen as indicative of high stress levels.
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You should use this list to check not only how you feel right now but
how you have felt in the past and how you expect to feel six months
from now. Doing this will not only help highlight possible patterns of
stress but will act as a warning: if you expect to still be feeling like this
in the future you need to act now to reduce the levels of stress in your
Are You An A?
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There are two basic types of people – Type A and Type B. These are
some of the characteristics associated with Type A:
While Type B people are generally considered to be:
The type you are has a direct effect on your overall health and it is
well known that Type B people tend to live longer than Type A.
They also suffer from fewer heart problems and fewer
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disappointments because they think things through more and have
a calmer outlook.
There is a lot of evidence to show that being Type A is bad for your
health so, if you are one, it is best to do something about it before
you suffer irreversible damage. Take this quick quiz to find out if
you are Type A:
Always Usually Sometimes Rarely Never
5 4 3 2 1
I do everything
as fast as
I hate waiting
I am very
I push myself
I am always on
I feel rushed
Less than 20 You are probably Type B – no need to take action
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20 – 30 Borderline Type A – you need to take things easier.
Try out the Action Plan.
Over 30 Classic Type A. You definitely need to do the Action
Type A Action Plan
There are 7 steps to this Action Plan. Following them will help
change your Type A behaviors and therefore reduce the amount of
stress in your life.
Step 1 – Focus on one thing at a time. Finish a task before moving on
to the next. Learn to say ‘No’ and don’t take on too much.
Step 2 – Express your feelings. Practice gratitude – thank other
people for what they do for you and be thankful for all the good things
in your life. Tell people you love them. Don’t bottle up anything,
Step 3 – Slow down. Take more time over things, especially eating,
sleeping and relaxing. Allow more time for tasks and in between
them so you don’t have to rush.
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Step 4 – Stop watching the clock. Try to stop wearing a watch,
especially at weekends. Don’t set yourself impossible deadlines and
don’t worry if you don’t meet them.
Step 5 – Take time for you. Put aside time each day purely for you.
Use that time to do exactly what you need to relax and refresh. It
doesn’t have to be a long time – anything from 5 minutes to 1 hour –
but it does have to be quality time.
Step 6 – Cool down. Don’t let anger get the better of you. Watch out
for when you get angry and why then learn to modify your behavior or
avoid dangerous situations. Losing your temper just once a day has
the same effect on your arteries as smoking 20 cigarettes.
Step 7 – Find a hobby. Old advice but more relevant then ever in
today’s stressed out society. Best choice is something that not only
relaxes you but makes you fitter – walking, swimming, gardening are
three great choices. Or you could just do something for fun!
More Ways To Tackle Stress
These are some more simple suggestions on how you can effectively
tackle stress in your life:
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Relaxation, Prayer, Meditation Done on a regular basis, any or all
of these can have a profound
impact on your stress levels.
Use Humor Reading a humorous book or
watching a comedy movie helps
you keep a healthy perspective
Be Assertive Learning to stand up for your
rights can transform your stress
levels and relationships
Eat Healthier Sticking to a balanced diet will not
only provide you with the right
balance of nutrients to withstand
stress but it will also reduce the
levels of cortisol in your body.
This is the hormone responsible
for laying down abdominal fat and
is directly linked to an increased
risk of high blood pressure and
Take Moderate Exercise Taken at a pace where you can talk
comfortably, exercise is an
excellent way to reduce stress.
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Play More Adopt a playful attitude – try out
new things including theater,
sports, games and music.
Take Mini-Vacations Take just a few minutes each day
to stretch, walk around and turn
your mind off.
Use Social Support Build on friendships or join a
church or social group.
Build Your Skills Skill-building equips you to cope
better in any situation, whether it
be work or leisure.
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Perhaps the biggest stress reliever of them all is learning how to
accept situations rather than fighting against them. The following
Serenity Prayer may or may not be familiar to you but, even if it is, I
encourage you to read it through and absorb its message.
If you then practice what it has to say you will find an instant and
measureable decrease in your stress levels. That, together with the
other suggestions in this report, can only lead to a longer, happier and
The Serenity Prayer
Lord, help me to change
the things I can change,
to live with the things
I can’t change,
and to have the wisdom
to know the difference.
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