Coping With Stress, Worry, Frustration and Insomnia

Coping with Stress

Stress is a condition that arises when the demands of living, exceed supplies of mental or physical energy.  It is also a complex mental condition that arises when,  important human needs, wants, and desires go unmet. The stress response is likewise triggered, when we don’t get relief from demanding daily events that don’t slow down or stop.  “Wear and tear” depression may be an endpoint of chronic stress.

Today, many people are experiencing new and unusual forms of personal and professional stress, and report feeling increasingly unsafe. The human stress system is designed for short periods of intense response, followed by long periods of rest and recovery. Prolonged emotional stress, in contrast, can lead to anxiety, agitation, excess worry, depression, insomnia, and in more extreme circumstances, panic, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic fatigue. Four common strategies, which include both healthy and unhealthy behaviors, that are used to cope with stress include:

  • Escape Strategies: Sleeping, eating, sex, buying, use of legal and illicit substances, prescription medications, meditation, breathing exercises, relaxing, progressive relaxation exercises, self-hypnosis, physical exercise, yoga, massage, entertainment, and avoidance-“I don’t want to talk about it”, “I don’t have the time for that now”.
  • Prevention Strategies: Caffeine, nicotine, stimulants, other performance enabling and enhancing drugs, and supplements, exercise, sleep.
  • Immersion Strategies: Putting ourselves into more unnecessarily demanding activities: workaholism, constant studying, excessive volunteering, being a ” super mom or dad”, perfectionism.
  • Creative Expression Strategies: Creating art, music, writings and poetry, film, dance, athletic endeavor.

Coping with Worry

Worry is a response to a negative future event that may or may not occur.  Worry is a byproduct of the intolerance of uncertainty, and detracts from learning how to cope with uncertainties in life.  People who are intolerant of uncertainty often believe that worrying is a positive act, because it helps them to solve a problem, or prevent a problem from occurring. The risk, however, is that when worrying happens to coincide with solving a problem, they may falsely conclude that worrying fixed the problem.  This, of course, will motivate them to worrying again, to solve future problems. People worry for both good, and bad reasons, because they believe:

Good Reasons:

  • Worry motivates me to get things done.
  • I need to worry in order to work well.
  • Worry keeps me on top of things I need to face.
  • Worrying helps me brainstorm.
  • Worrying means you are a conscientious, and responsible person, who takes care of things.
  • Worrying in advance protects me against surprise, and helps prepare for bad news, and sadness.
  • Worrying magically prevents bad things from happening.
  • Worry keeps me aware, and prepared feeling.
  • People who do not worry have no depth.
  • Worry makes me reflect more deeply on life, and ask important questions of myself.
  • If you love or care about someone, worrying about them keeps them well.

Bad Reasons:

  • Worry just exaggerates possible problems
  • Worry makes me focus on the wrong things
  • Worrying is a coverup for boredom
  • Worrying takes mental energy away from doing other things
  • Worry causes me stress

Perhaps, the most universal worry that human beings struggle with, is the prospect of being alone in life .

Coping With Frustration

In the face of barriers that prevent fulfillment of important needs, wants and desires, people respond in several ways:

  • Struggling: Continuing to chip away at, pull away from, or push aside barriers, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.
  • Committing: Reducing suffering by giving positive emotional meaning to your cause, or mission, continuing to remind yourself of the importance of the goals you are trying to accomplish.
  • Hoping: Anticipating and expecting things to change for the better, while enjoying the here and now.
  • Acceptance: Shifting attention away from the frustrating situation, and pursuing more achievable goals.
  • Resignation: Giving up the expectation for things to change.
  • Opportunism: Giving up the effort to improve a bad situation, and taking advantage of it for personal gain.

Coping With Insomnia

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)  is the primary non-medication treatment of insomnia.  Insomnia is the third most common medical symptom complaint, after pain and headaches.  Women suffer more from insomnia than men, and adults over 60 y.o. suffer from insomnia more than any other age group.  People with chronic insomnia are more likely to develop depression, and have a shorter lifespan.  Chronic insomnia also predisposes suffers to medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, increased cholesterol, and weight gain, and certain substance abuses. Acute and chronic insomnia also affects memory functions, learning, creativity, and productivity. All insomnias that are not due to a medical or psychiatric condition is called primary insomnia.  Primary insomnias can be characterized as or caused by:

  • Psychophysiological insomnia
  • Sleep state misperception
  • Poor sleep habits (“sleep hygiene”)
  • Decreased drive to sleep
  • Easy arousal from sleep (“light sleeper”)
  • Travel and time changes

Understanding Burnout

Burnout is characterized by 5 features

  1. Emotional exhaustion
  2. Cynicism or a loss of idealism
  3. A sense of a decline in competence, effectiveness, and productivity at work
  4. Ongoing feelings of frustration
  5. A sense of failure

Burnout grows as people work harder with fewer resources, pay, and greater job insecurity. Technology also increases the possibility for the lines between work and home to blur, with people feeling on-call all of the time with no break. Burnout is a particular risk to women ages 30 to 40 who have entered the work force, and are trying to balance home,  and work life.  Burnout is not just a consequence of working too hard.  It can be triggered by at least 7 factors:

  1. Work overload
  2. Lack of control over work
  3. Insufficient rewards at work
  4. Lack of support from bosses or co-workers, and incivility
  5. Lack of fairness, such as inequality of pay, promotions, or workload
  6. Conflict between one’s personal values, and requirements of the job
  7. When certain members of the society get more and more, and others get fewer and fewer benefits and rewards
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