Top 10 life stresses – and how to cope!

The right tools can be the difference between coping with major life stresses, or being overcome by them.

06 April 2016
by Meg de Jong

Nobody likes being stressed out. Whether it’s a busy time at work, or grieving the loss of a loved one, stress can take a significant toll on our health and wellbeing.

In 1967, two psychiatrists conducted a study to examine the relationship between stress and mental illness. They developed a scale to rate life events from most to least stressful and called it the Holmes and Rahe Stress scale. Today this scale can be used to measure how much stress is in your life, and whether you’re at risk of becoming sick.

According to Holmes and Rahe’s findings, the 10 most stressful situations for adults are: 

1. Death of a spouse

2. Divorce

3. Marital separation

4. Imprisonment

5. Death of a close family member

6. Personal injury or illness

7. Marriage

8. Dismissal from work

9. Marital reconciliation

10. Retirement

The necessity of stress management

Stress manifests differently for different people, and events may be easier or harder for different individuals. “Stress management is all about gaining or regaining a sense of control over your situation or the responsibilities facing you,” explains clinical psychologist Mareli Fischer.

She advises that logic and careful planning are the best ways to fight anxiety and stress rather than unhealthy approaches such as smoking, drinking or eating excessively, or sleeping too much.

“These coping mechanisms might make you feel a sense of short-lived relief, however, the truth is that these negative habits are actually doing more harm than good,” she says.

7 essential tips for dealing with stress

Dealing with stress in a healthy way may be the difference between surviving the situation, or letting it overcome you. Fischer advises adopting the following healthier ways of dealing with stress:

1. Become more physically active: Whether it’s going for a walk, dancing to your favourite music or going to an exercise class with a friend, get moving. Any form of physical activity will help to get those feel-good endorphins pumping, and is a good way to release tension and frustration. 

2. Reach out to your social group: Engage with friends who make you feel safe, supported and understood. 

3. Learn to say no: Lessen your load by managing the amount of tasks or responsibilities you have to tend to at once. 

4. Express or externalise your feelings: Write them down, talk to a friend, punch a punching bag, or talk to a therapist or counsellor. 

5. Adopt a healthy lifestyle: This includes eating healthy food, sleeping enough, exercising regularly and avoiding damaging substances like alcohol and drugs. 

6. Make time to have fun: This is absolutely vital in between taking care of your responsibilities. Watch a funny movie or laugh with a friend – this will lift your flagging spirits. 

7. Be good at breaking down tasks into manageable chunks: Plan how and when you will accomplish each small portion of the job. 

If you need help

Visit the South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s website to find the assistance you need. 

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IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

Read More: Stress Super Section