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When pressure exceeds a person’s ability to cope

Stress occurs when pressure exceeds a person’s own perceived ability to cope. It has overtaken the common cold as a major reason for absence from work.

Research shows that there is a physiological difference between challenge and stress. A person experiencing stress has higher levels of the various stress hormones in their bloodstream than a person who feels challenged.
How much are we directly responsible for our own levels of stress, and how do our perceptions of events or thinking style and attitudes contribute to stress levels?

A frequently used model of stress is illustrated by a number of stages:
* A life event or external pressure including redundancy, bereavement, illness
* If this event is perceived as stressful this triggers a stress response. If a person believes that he or she has the ability to deal with the demand, the situation is perceived as challenging and not stressful.
* Three responses to stress are activated: psychological, behavioural and physiological. The physiological response includes the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and noradrenaline which prepare the heart, lungs and major muscle groups for action – for either fight or flight. Fats and sugars are also released into the blood to provide energy.

Stress management helps people examine stress-inducing thinking, and apply problem-solving thinking skills to most situations with the help of psychological techniques and strategies.

Stress management counselling can help a person to become literally his or her own self-coach. Counselling first helps identify the problem then, using questioning techniques, teaches people to challenge their own stress-inducing ideas.

Counselling helps develop a personal action plan using three components:
* Psychological, using thinking and imagery skills
* Behavioural looking at social support, assertiveness and time management
* Physical health incorporating exercise, nutrition and relaxation.

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