South Africans are resilient, capable people but could our strong, 'let's get on with it'
temperament be preventing us from acknowledging and dealing with potentially dangerous stress levels?
What is stress and how does it affect our bodies?
Stress is our response to an event that has disturbed us and caused mental and/or physical tension. Our bodies react by releasing chemicals into the blood that can give us extra energy and strength, such as cortisol.
In some instances, this release of chemicals can be a positive reaction, enabling us to swiftly deal with a threatening situation or motivating us to perform at our best.
If maintained for a prolonged period, however, this heightened state puts a serious strain on the body because it doesn't allow it to relax and return back to its normal state.
Prolonged high stress levels can lead to a wide variety of health conditions and studies also show that those under sustained pressure are much more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviour, such as excessive drinking and drug use, chain smoking, and making poor exercise and nutritional choices.
Managing our stress levels
Stress is a natural, inevitable part of a fulfilling life, but, given the potentially serious hazards posed by excessive stress, it is vital that we proactively manage our stress levels.
We need to be aware of how much stress we are under at any given time and learn coping measures, especially during periods of intense emotional, physical or mental stress.
There are recognized stressful events, such as moving house, divorce, the death of someone close, losing a job or suffering a serious illness or injury, but we also need to be more conscious about the frequent times a sudden change will leave us stressed and emotionally depleted.
There are many ordinary occasions when we can feel overwhelmed, unable to cope and need a little extra support, for example, returning to work after a long holiday, writing an exam or taking on a bigger workload.
Looking after mental health and well being is as important as your physical health and managing your stress effectively is important for self care. Be kind to yourself and others.