The necessity of knowing your personal stress threshold as we talked in part 2 is that it reminds you to take actions to regulate your stress. The final and the most important part in stress management is to learn how to regulate your stress when you find out your stress is out of your control.
How to regulate your stress:
Stress management is not about eliminating stress from your life. After all, stress is a part of life, and at least some amount of stress is needed to help us remain active, alert, and motivated.
Stress management is a set of techniques designed to help us manage the stress we experience more effectively—to prevent stress from becoming a source of distress. Here are some strategies for actively coping with the stressors of disease.
- Keep stress at a manageable level and avoid unnecessary stress. Of course not all stresses can be avoid, but we should try to distinguish the stressor we should be concerned about and those we shouldn’t. For example, it is understandable to be concerned about the disease when you are sick, but try not to focus on the negative effects of the disease. Instead, pay attention on how you can manage the disease to get better. Have a talk with your doctor and make a rule about what you should and should not worry about. So when you break the rule, you know that you should take actions to reduce your stress. Do not direct all of your attention on the point of stress, try to use something else to distract your attention. For example, if you are undergoing an uncomfortable medical procedure, try to reduce the stress by focusing on something else—an inner fantasy or an environmental feature such as the cracks in the tiles on the ceiling.
- Become more aware of your body’s response to stress. Don’t ignore the signs of stress. Use the warning signs mentioned above to help understand how you react to stress. Those physical and psychological symptoms may signal that you’ve reached or exceeded your stress threshold. Also, prepare your body for coping with stress. Follow a nutritionally balanced diet. Get enough sleep. Avoid tobacco and other harmful substances. Keep active and fit
- Know what to expect and get adapted to the stressor. Stressors are more manageable when you know what to expect. For example, if you cannot change the fact that you are currently managing a disease, become familiar with the symptoms that the disease may cause so that you can be psychologically prepared and know what you may experience. Look for the upside in a situation—even the most stressful circumstances can be an opportunity for learning or personal growth. People become tougher than they think they could be and many of them make great achievements after experiencing the stressful situation. Beethoven completed the Ninth Symphony after the loss of his hearing. Positive expectation such as the belief that you can get better improves the patient’s condition. For example, there is a phenomenon that we called placebo effect. The placebo — a fake treatment, an inactive substance like sugar — can sometimes improve a patient’s condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful. Expectation plays an important role in the placebo effect. The more a person believes they are going to benefit from a treatment, the more likely it is that they will experience a benefit
- Reach out and be touched by someone. If you can’t avoid a stressful situation such as having a disease, try to alter it. Instead of bottling up your feelings and increasing your stress, respectfully let others know about your concerns. Social support buffers the effects of stress. Early important studies with medical students and dental students, two highly stressed groups, show that students who had more friends had better immune system functioning than those with fewer friends (Jemmott et al., 1983; Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 1983). Furthermore, giving support to others can also help buffer the impact of stress and can be personally fulfilling.
In conclusion, being stressful when you get diseased is not completely a bad thing. As long as you can prevent your stress from becoming overload and damaging your life, the stress helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. Use the resources we provide in the three series to find out if you are overly stressed, and be familiar the approaches mentioned above so that you know how to regulate your stress when it is overload.
Jemmott, J. B., et al. (1983). Academic stress, power motivation, and decrease in secretion rate of salivary secretory immunoglobin A. Lancet, 1, 1400–1402.
Jeffrey S, Nevid & Spencer A. Rathus (2013). Psychology and the Challenges of Life: Adjustment and Growth (12th edition). 111-113
Melinda Smith, Robert Segal, and Jeanne Segal. Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes. The Effects of Stress Overload and What You Can Do About It, Helpguide,org, 2014, Web. 11 February 2015.