I am really very stressed out right now. I have just been laid off my job. I have a family to feed and I don’t know what to do. I don’t think I am reacting well as I am short-tempered with my wife and kids.
You have just experienced something quite traumatic – losing your job. Anyone in your position would be quite stressed out.
After any traumatic event, such as losing a job, failing an exam, being in an accident or losing a loved one, many people may have strong and lingering reactions.
The symptoms you experience may be physical or emotional, or both. We talked about the physical in my last column (www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/health/tell-me-about/2022/11/03/what-stress-does-to-your-body-and-mind)
But you can also experience emotions such as:
> Disbelief or frustration
> Fear, shock, anger
> Sadness, anxiety, numbness, and
> Worsening of mental health conditions.
All this may lead to increased use of alcohol, smoking and even other substances, including drugs.
How many people have you met who said they started smoking or drinking to cope with a stressful situation?
You could be one of them!
Unfairly, you can also take it out on your loved ones, who are the most convenient.
This can also lead to domestic physical and emotional violence.
That is why it is important to manage your stress.
I am not sure I know how to manage my stress. I feel like hitting a door or punching something all the time.
You need to remember some cardinal rules on how to manage stress.
You need to take care of yourself – every time you feel stressed out, give yourself a break.
Do something you like during that break, and make it healthy! (Meaning, please do not take a smoke break!)
In general, you need to eat a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise and sleep.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol and don’t smoke.
Get your normal vaccinations, including the Covid-19 ones, so you do not get stressed at the thought of being in a crowd or going out.
Make time for yourself to unwind and relax.
Do things you like, such as going to the gym, catching up with friends, watching a movie, reading a book, etc.
Cut down on caffeine, which can make you jittery.
All this would make you less prone to getting stressed out in the first place.
Ok, I think I am generally healthy. But I still get stressed out.
When the stressor comes, you can do these:
> Take a deep breath. Count till 10 and feel that stress ebb slowly away.
> Do not be tempted to say or do anything that you will regret – especially in front of your boss or loved ones. Hence, counting to 10 will make you think twice before going with your immediate reaction.
> Do some stretching exercises.
> If you know how to meditate, do so.
> Find a friend and talk to that friend. Share your problems.
If you don’t have a friend, you can even share your problem with a psychologist, doctor, counsellor, or religious figure (priests make good listeners at the confessional!)
It is no shame to seek professional help if you cannot manage something on your own.
I have tried all of the above but I get stressed so easily, and it does not seem to go away. I have since gotten myself a new job, but I am still stressed out over what happened, and that I may possibly lose my job again.
It is easy to say to someone, “Don’t worry about the things you cannot control”, but you may worry anyway.
Chronic stress is constant stress that persists over a period of time, and can be every bit as debilitating as a physical illness. We talked about how serious chronic stress can be – possibly leading to heart attacks and strokes.
Here are some ways you can address chronic stress:
> Set limits: List down the exact things (work commitments, children’s multiple tuition classes, etc) that are making you feel stressed.
Identify those things that you feel you absolutely must do in order to survive. Then delete anything non-essential.
In your work, you also need to prioritise.
Discuss a list of your tasks with your boss and ask their input on your priorities.
In your children’s lives, make arrangements for someone to bring them or carpool if you cannot meet all the commitments you have made for them – tuition, ballet, piano, summer camp, football practice etc.
You will discover that many things are actually non-essential and you have made those commitments for them mostly because you feel that they need to keep up with their classmates.
In your social life, if you cannot keep up with going out with your friends all the time, you have to tell them so.
Drop your volunteer obligations for the time being.
Don’t accept any new commitments.
> Get emotional support: This can come from your family, friends and professionals if you do not have the former.
Many people find it easier to talk to a sibling than their own spouse.
> Have a positive outlook: See problems as opportunities.
A laid off job may lead you to finally doing something you absolutely love.
Try NOT to aim for perfection, but set realistic goals.
In some people, stress is caused because they try to do things perfectly all the time.
Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health, computers and entertainment. For further information, email [email protected]. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only, and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.