Achieve your goals by man­ag­ing stress bet­ter

Brid­get Ed­wards knows all about stress, and how to deal with it


LEARN­ING to man­age stress can be your ticket to liv­ing your goals and dreams.To un­der­stand how we can all be­gin shift­ing neg­a­tive stress into pos­i­tive power, stress ex­pert and au­thor of Stress Gone, Brid­get Ed­wards sheds some light.

Many sci­en­tists ar­gue stress is a good thing. What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween good stress and bad stress?

A level of stress is nec­es­sary for hu­man sur­vival, our evo­lu­tion as a species as well as be­ing a cat­a­lyst for change. Hu­mans typ­i­cally learn and grow best when stretched or when pain and suf­fer­ing is in­volved, but ex­ces­sive or chronic stress can be detri­men­tal, even fa­tal. In this re­gard, stress should be con­sid­ered an early warn­ing sig­nal be­fore lifethreat­en­ing con­se­quences re­sult. Good or bad stress is de­ter­mined by an in­di­vid­ual’s per­cep­tion or stress­re­lated is­sues – no two peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence stress the same way.

How do you know you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing un­healthy lev­els?

Stress is unique to each in­di­vid­ual – this is what makes the ef­fects dif­fi­cult to dis­cern. De­vel­op­ing self-aware­ness and self-un­der­stand­ing is the most im­por­tant at­tribute to learn.

Know your­self, es­pe­cially your body. Know your lim­its, and be re­al­is­tic about your abil­i­ties. Lis­ten to your body. It has an in­nate in­tel­li­gence and wis­dom which is con­stantly pro­vid­ing feed­back such as dis­com­fort, aches and pains, ill­ness, dis­ease, etc. Un­healthy lev­els of stress can show up as cog­ni­tive, emo­tional, phys­i­cal or be­havioural symp­toms – all of which vary from per­son to per­son.

The big­gest tragedy of the mod­ern age is that we have dis­con­nected from our bod­ies. We don’t lis­ten to this in­nate in­tel­li­gence and wis­dom. We com­pletely ig­nore this feed­back, opt­ing in­stead to take pills to quell symp­toms, and then con­tinue to forge on ahead re­gard­less of the con­se­quences ex­pect­ing dif­fer­ent re­sults (see box). Keep in mind that the signs and symp­toms of stress can also be caused by other psy­cho­log­i­cal or med­i­cal prob­lems. If you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any of the warn­ing signs of stress, it’s im­por­tant to seek in­ter­ven­tion from a med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner for a full eval­u­a­tion. Your med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner can help you de­ter­mine whether or not your symp­toms are stress-re­lated.

When key col­leagues (bosses, team mem­bers who hold your fu­ture in their hands) are the ones cre­at­ing the most neg­a­tive stress, what do you do?

Stress shows up as a per­ceived threat, par­tic­u­larly when one feels in­ad­e­quate, in­tim­i­dated, in­se­cure, out of depth or vul­ner­a­ble.

In any sit­u­a­tion, the only thing we all have con­trol over is our own in­ter­nal frame­work in­clud­ing emo­tions and in­ner di­a­logue. When some­one chal­lenges or causes you neg­a­tive stress, view this as an ideal op­por­tu­nity to learn and grow.

First, ac­knowl­edge your re­ac­tion is only a per­cep­tion of the sit­u­a­tion. Sec­ond, know you have the power to change your per­cep­tion (un­der­stand­ably you may not re­alise this at the time).

Third, there are ex­er­cises and tech­niques to im­me­di­ately help you re­lease neg­a­tive stress, emo­tions and the as­so­ci­ated un­com­fort­able stressed phys­i­cal feel­ings.

Four, if the sit­u­a­tion is un­ten­able, you have the choice to ex­tri­cate your­self – this is where stress be­comes a change cat­a­lyst.

What are so­lu­tions for turn­ing neg­a­tive stress into pos­i­tive stress?

Im­me­di­ately make a con­scious

Why are you so pas­sion­ate about help­ing peo­ple un­der­stand and man­age stress?

Vir­tu­ally my en­tire life has been de­fined by neg­a­tive stress. I was born a for­ceps baby, shipped off to board­ing school at 6 years old, had duo­de­nal ul­cers around 9-11-year­sold, was plagued with con­stant stom­ach prob­lems, re­cur­ring night­mares, wet my bed, etc – all as a re­sult of acute child­hood stress.

This re­sulted in me be­com­ing a fright­ened child who con­stantly felt un­der threat, in­se­cure and vul­ner­a­ble. This played out into my adult life where I re­peated the learnt neg­a­tive be­havioural pat­terns which didn’t serve my high­est good. Trauma af­ter trauma, I even­tu­ally de­vel­oped adrenal fa­tigue, Can­dida in­tol­er­ance, then chronic fa­tigue syn­drome (CFS/ ME) fol­lowed by se­vere de­pres­sion. The fa­tal blow was dis­cov­er­ing my body was rid­dled with Rick­ettsia (tick bite) and Lyme’s dis­ease. I be­came so ill, I had to hock my pos­ses­sions and lit­er­ally lost ev­ery­thing in the process.

Dur­ing my dark­est days, chal­lenged to the n-th de­gree and hit­ting rock bot­tom, life com­pelled me to face my worst fears.

By do­ing so, I recog­nised pat­terns and decades of stress. I be­gun the cathar­tic process of work­ing on my­self. The ex­er­cises, tech­niques and strate­gies I share are what helped me turn the cor­ner.

Iron­i­cally, my en­tire “stress­ful” life, in­clud­ing “the dark­est nights of my soul”, turned out to be the most in­valu­able lessons, which I can now im­part and share with oth­ers so they can pos­i­tively turn their lives around.

To­day, I know it is pos­si­ble to live a rel­a­tively stress-free life­style, al­though not per­ma­nently. Re­lax­ation ex­pands the con­scious­ness.

ALARM: Stress should be con­sid­ered an early warn­ing sig­nal be­fore life-threat­en­ing con­se­quences re­sult.

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