Coping with Stress

By Drum Digital
09 July 2014

Tips on how to handle stress

IF you find you’re feeling more irritable and snappier than usual, exhausted and have an upset tummy or even panic attacks, you might be suffering from stress.

People are more likely to talk about how “hectic” their lives are than to admit to feeling stressed, says Barbara Harmel, a Joburg-based counselling psychologist in private practice.

Financial pressures and work are often the most common reasons people feel under pressure. “Many work for companies with a culture of working people hard and expecting them to ‘step up to the plate’ time and time again. As a result there’s a reluctance to expose their vulnerability with an admission of feeling stressed,” she says. The result is that stress is repressed until it gets to the point where your body rebels and health problems like headaches, exhaustion or sleep problems start to surface.

Learning to manage your stress can benefit every area of your life

Some stress is good and some people even thrive under pressure when faced with a physical or mental challenge. When your body is charged up, adrenaline strengthens your heart, widens your airways and pushes the flow of blood to the muscles. But no-one needs this “fight or flight” mechanism to be switched on all the time.

Each individual manages stress differently. People who are more laid-back cope better, while others have to learn how to respond differently or to reprioritise their lives, Barbara advises.

“It may mean identifying what stresses you out and to cultivate new mental habits. For example, realising it’s not the end of the world when dinner is not ready on time or cutting yourself some slack by admitting you won’t always get everything right. When it comes to meeting deadlines, you can reassure yourself that you’re doing your best instead of panicking,” she advises.

The more we understand how stress affects us as individuals, the more likely we are to come up with ways to help ease the tensions.


Call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group toll-free on 0800-20-50-26.

You can also call LifeLine’s national crisis line on 0861-322-322.


A shared laugh can reduce stress and tension.


- Vida Li Sik


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