To Cope with Stress? Try the 4A's
Many companies recognise that health issues can impact productivity and the bottom line, and put employees’ physical and emotional wellbeing at a high priority. Here, a specialist talks about coping with stress.
Stress is a normal and natural physical response. In appropriate doses, stress can motivate staff to better performance. When stress is prolonged, the body’s defence mechanism may go on overdrive.
According to Dr Gabriel Hung, Specialist in Psychiatry, “Long-term exposure to stress can lead to hypertension, suppressed immunity, increased risk of heart attack and stroke. A stressful life can also cause infertility, accelerated ageing, insomnia, obesity, anxiety and depression.”
The Executive Medical Director of Matilda International Hospital (MIH), Dr Hans Schrader, added, “Many people are reluctant, or lack the opportunity, to discuss the effect of life’s stressors (be it work, personal, finance or relationships) and often develop unhealthy or incomplete coping mechanisms. Early recognition of stress is the first step to managing the condition.”
Prolonged stress can manifest in various ways. The more signs there are, the closer a person might be to a condition of stress overload.
Avoid, Alter, Adapt and Accept
Everyone experiences stress at some point in life. The adage of maintaining physical and mental wellness through a healthy diet, regular exercise, good sleep and finding time for relaxation or personal interests do hold true.
To cope with stressful situations, try the 4A’s strategy - avoid, alter, adapt and accept.
Avoid unnecessary stress by prioritising and getting organized, and learning to say no whenever feasible.
Alter the situation by being assertive and resolving matters head on, instead of procrastinating or ignoring the issue.
Adapt to stressors by reframing problems and focusing on the positive aspects of life.
Accept that there are certain things that just cannot be changed, and turn stressful situations into learning experiences.
When prolonged stress is causing insomnia, anxiety, depression or other medical problems, affecting the daily ability to function effectively, then it is important to consult a doctor. Early detection and treatment, including medications and psychological therapies, can contribute to a faster recovery and return to normal levels of functioning. Good social and family support is also helpful.
Assess Areas of Concern
According to Dr Schrader, the Health Assessment Department sees many high functioning executives from large corporations. “They have busy schedules, and are constantly asked to make major decisions. As their physician, a discussion during a health screening consultation will open up ways for our client to effectively deal with stress,” he said.
MIH’s tailor-made corporate health assessments programmes can include mental health screening. Patients showing risk of high stress will be able to get help in total confidence, while an aggregate anonymous corporate stress indicator prepared by the doctor will enable HR personnel to address areas of concern.
Common Warning Signs of Stress
- Constant worrying
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Seeing only the negative aspects
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor memory
- Poor judgment
- Moodiness and irritability
- Inability to relax
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Sense of loneliness and isolation
- Pessimism and depression
- Chest discomfort, rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Aches and pains
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent colds and lowered immunity
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Isolating yourself from others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting)