Coping with life and work tensions

A youth experiencing a very tense moment of his life

Have you been to a drugstore recently? If so, you may recall seeing shelves filled with preparations to reduce the pain of headache, to calm jangled nerves or to combat inability to sleep.

You see the same things repeatedly advertised in the media and television commercials.

It is evident that more and more people today are seeking relief from ailments. What causes so many aches and pains? Often a common element is involved: Tension.

However, people vary greatly in their reactions to events in their lives. What brings tension to one person may be a refreshing experience for someone else.

Some things, though, nearly always breed unhealthy tension. Among the greatest of these is the tragic death of a loved one.

Also ranked high are personal injury or disease, losing ones job and during an economic crisis.

The overcrowded conditions of some areas and the continual subjection of persons to loud noise are, for many individuals, further sources of painful stress.

Nevertheless, the negative effects of tension experienced by a person has much to do with his attitude toward life.

Concerning the way of life of many who died of heart attacks, Dr. Malcolm says:

This could be characterized as an irregular, self-destructive way of life, primarily dominated by emotions of aggression, anger and ambition.” 

Are you acquainted with persons of that type, or with ones who seem to ‘work around the clock’ to get ahead?

Besides this mental attitude, a person’s daily routine may contribute to excessive tension. Dr. Selye observes:

Some people are racehorses, so highly strung that it would kill them to be kept in a quiet stall most of the time . . Such people need more stimulation. He compared others to turtles, whose vital force and energy are best conserved in quiet and placidity.” 

One who is over paced or under paced at his job is likely to suffer ill effects from tension.

Does tension bother you? There are a number of things that can be effective in coping with tension. Let us consider some of them briefly.

Coping with tension problems


What about your daily routine? If you are like many factory employees who work on assembly lines, it is probable that repeating the same tasks day after day gets you down at times.

What can you do to ease your stress at work?

If your present employment does not serve a special purpose that would offset its undesirable aspects, could changing to a job that better suits your personality improve matters for you?

 If such a change will not create economic hardship, you may find that doing something you like will reduce stress in your life.

Often, though, a job change is out of the question, as in the case of housewives.

If that is your circumstance, you may find it helpful to do the most unpleasant tasks first, leaving later hours for more enjoyable duties.

Too, a change of pace from time to time is a must to prevent the buildup of tension.

For example, a short walk, a half-hour nap or simply looking out of the window for a few minutes can do wonders for a tense person.

Beware, though, not to take so many breaks that you become frustrated due to lack of accomplishment. This would aggravate, rather than relieve, tension.

There may be an even better way to seek a healthy change of pace. Dr. Selye comments:

We have found that when completion of one particular task becomes impossible, diversion . . . is frequently as good as—if not better than—a rest.” 

A hobby such as writing, painting, knitting, shop work or some other pursuit that you find interesting can ease tension.

And do not underestimate the value of physical exercise. Dr. Carruthers writes:

Most of the known risk factors in heart disease such as high blood fat levels, high blood pressure, sugar intolerance and rapid blood clotting have been found to decrease in suitably physical training schemes. The subjects also look and feel better, cope more easily at home and at work and sleep more soundly at night.” 

Chopping a log, painting a room, riding a bicycle, a vigorous and refreshing swim, indeed, any physical activity can do much to relieve tension.

You cannot avoid a measure of tension in your life. But do you make things worse than they have to be? It is known, for example, that the use of tobacco puts an extra load on the heart.

One study indicated that caffeine from coffee increases secretion of a stress hormone in overly aroused individuals, though it does not do that for persons relaxed at home.

And what about overeating and the abuse of alcohol? Could discontinuing some habits and modifying others result in less tension in your life?

For example, if suffer from a heart disease, there is another cause of day-to-day tension that you can easily avoid. What is that?

The automobile. Tests with drivers who previously had heart attacks showed pulse rates of 180 beats per minute while behind the wheel, which is as high as that of racing drivers.

Could replacing some driving by walking, cycling or using public transportation reduce the stress of life for you?

A way to avoid making things worse when you are under stress is not to take on additional unnecessary responsibilities.

For example, if you presently have serious illness in your household, it would be unwise to make major changes in your life, such as moving or changing jobs, until the illness has passed.

Many situations however that breed excess tension come up unexpectedly. To be able to deal with this tensions calls for training the mind in advance.

Most people who are able cope with tension problems learnt to do so when they where young.

Dr. Aaron T. Beck explains why this important:

My own attitude is that while it’s good to give the child lots of love, it’s not enough. . . . What they do need is the opportunity to confront various problems when they are young and learn to cope with them. . . . The parent should not do all the coping for the child. The idea is to make it a learning experience so the child will be able to solve similar types of problems that arise later on.”

If you do not have previous experience on how to deal with a certain problem, then it would be advisable to seek help from qualified counselor or a person has gone through a similar experience.

You can gain much insight on how to cope with problems causing you tensions.

In short, what can you do about tension? If it springs from an attitude of mind, change the attitude.

Seek a change of pace from your regular routine through periodic breaks, through physical activity or by pursuing a constructive hobby.

If possible, avoid aggravating, stress-producing situations, and prepare yourself in advance for unexpected stress.

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