Anna Dannfelt, stress therapist and holistic coach, clears up some misconceptions about stress and discusses when you should seek help to maintain balance.
Stress is on everybody’s lips today. How many times in a day do we hear, say or come across this word? Being busy does not necessarily mean being stressed and there is a serious and confusing misconception as to what stress really is. Expats may find that the major change of moving abroad could increase their levels of stress, and living in a foreign country, culture, and language may also contribute to that stress. How can expats deal with the stress of living abroad?
What causes expat stress?
Stress is what happens when we lose all sense of control over a situation and there are some very obvious areas where this happens:
- Losing a job or an income; not being able to meet your basic needs.
- Disease, death or prolonged pain.
- Being without work for a longer time; having too little to do.
- Major changes in life; moving, new job, having a baby…
- Too much to do over a long time without seeing any relief or having any influence over it.
As a matter of fact, research finds that one of the groups in society that suffers the most from stress are people without a job. Not having enough to do creates stress in all individuals, be it man or beast. We are not made to just ‘sit around’, nor to overfill our valuable time with inconsequential actions.
Then there are the ‘myths’ of stress:
Good or bad stress
Stress is always a problem, there is no such thing as ‘good’ stress, what that means is that we are moving forward in a positive energy of motivation. But this can easily turn into stress (‘bad’ stress) if we lose sight of our needs and boundaries.
Inner or outer stress
We are not separated beings; in fact, whatever we experience emotionally or mentally (‘inner’ stress) will influence our physical body and how we handle a situation. ‘Outer’ stress; overwork, time-limits and pressure, will influence us on an emotional and mental level.
Stress is a serious condition that can be hard to spot since our reactions to stress differ. Some people can handle tremendous amounts of pressure; others can’t. Some people show physical symptoms such as aches and pains, others suffer emotionally through depression and sleeplessness.
When we realize that we are beginning to experience stress, it’s our personal responsibility to take measures, whatever they may be: stress management techniques, changes to our schedule, time-management, or help from a therapist. We need to learn self-awareness because this is the one major thing that alters the impact of stress. Learning about what stress actually does to our systems is valuable since it can help us to recognize symptoms and realize when to take measures.
Many of the stress-sufferers lose all sense of balance and they see no solutions; instead of mitigating the situation, they push themselves even harder. They’re unable to take care of themselves anymore and all the techniques in the world won’t help them.
This is when I know for sure that someone has stress. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re burned out, which is far more serious than ‘just’ stress. I also see people who hide in their stress to excuse shortcomings. Sometimes there’s even a certain pride in being stressed. Many of us grew up with the idea that a busy person is important.
Since the word stress has become synonymous with disease, I think we should be careful in our use of it. Are we really in disease or are we simply unbalanced?
As long as we can find a solution or ask for help, we’re still okay and this is where we, as individuals, must act – before we start spiraling into disease. Remember; we are of no use when we are not in balance.
Warning signs of stress
There are many signs to be aware of, such as:
- Time keeps running out. There is never enough time or it seems to get shorter.
- Recurring or constant aches and pains. Are you taking more pain-killers?
- Sleeplessness or waking up exhausted after a night’s sleep.
- Irregular or changed eating habits; constant hunger or lack of appetite. Weight-change.
- Increased intake of coffee, tea, carbs, and sugars.
- Shortness of breath.
- Mood-swings; irritation, anger, sadness, impatience. Being under a black cloud.
- Mistakes such as dropping things, pressing the wrong keys on the computer, bumping into things.
- Forgetful, absentminded, difficulty concentrating.
- Negative thought-patterns.
- Feeling ‘skin-less’ and unprotected. The whole world is on your shoulders.
- Inability to experience joy.
- Losing interest in yourself.
The dis-ease of stress is something that creeps up on us and more often than not we are unaware of it. We just adapt, which is why stress is such a sneaky thing. Listen to the people close to you; often they are more aware of the changes that might occur, and this can help you to understand when it is time to take measures. Take some time out to get back on track, get help if you feel overwhelmed. Pay attention to yourself, don’t ever forget that you are the most important person in your life!