Stress

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Stress management is one of the keys to developing a career as a multiday or ultrarunner. Multiday events, whether they are continous round the clock races, staged events, adventure races or triathlons are all a test of our capacities and capabilities and that testing means finding where our limits are. Once these actual and perceived limits have been established, then we are in a position to go beyond them - self-transcendence.

What is Psychological Stress?

Stress is not directly created by external events, but instead by the internal perceptions that cause an individual to have anxiety/negative emotions surrounding a situation, such as pressure, discomfort, etc., which they then deem “stressful”. Humans experience stress, or perceive things as threatening, when they do not believe that their resources for coping with obstacles (stimuli, people, situations, etc.) are enough for what the circumstances demand. When we think the demands being placed on us exceed our ability to cope, we then perceive stress. The feelings often associated with experiencing stress are anxiety and being overwhelmed.[1]

Behaviour associated with stress

  • Avoidance/phobias
  • Sleep disturbances/insomnia
  • Increased nicotine/caffeine intake
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of appetite/overeating
  • Aggression/irritability
  • Impaired speech/voice tremor
  • Poor time management
  • Compulsive behaviour
  • Checking rituals
  • Tics, spasms
  • Nervous cough
  • Low productivity
  • Withdrawing from relationships
  • Clenched fists/Teeth grinding

Type A behaviour e.g. talking/walking faster

  • Eat/walk/talk faster
  • Sulking behaviour
  • Frequent crying
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Poor eye contact

Emotional effect of stress

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Hurt
  • Morbid jealousy
  • Shame/embarrassment
  • Suicidal feelings

Physical sensations associated with stress

  • Tension
  • Headaches
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Nausea
  • Tremors/inner tremors
  • Aches/pains
  • Dizziness/feeling faint
  • Indigestion
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Spasms in stomach
  • Numbness
  • Dry mouth
  • Cold sweat
  • Clammy hands
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Sensory flashbacks
  • Pain


Imagery associated with stress

Images of:Helplessness

  • Isolation/being alone
  • Losing control
  • Accidents/injury
  • Failure
  • Humiliation/shame/embarrassment
  • Nightmares/distressing recurring dreams
  • Visual flashbacks
  • Poor self-image


Thoughts and thinking associated with stress

  • I must perform well
  • Life should not be unfair
  • Self/other-damning statements
  • Low frustration statements e.g. I can't stand it.
  • I must be in control
  • It's awful, terrible, horrible, unbearable etc.
  • I must have what I want
  • I must obey 'my' moral code and rules
  • Others must approve of me
  • Cognitive distortions e.g. all or nothing thinking


Interpersonal factors associated with stress

  • Passive/aggressive in relationships
  • Timid/unassertive
  • Loner
  • No friends
  • Competitive
  • Put other' needs before own
  • Sycophantic behaviour
  • Withdrawn
  • Makes friends easily/with difficulty
  • Suspicious/secretive
  • Manipulative tendencies
  • Gossiping

Biological Perspective

Use of: drugs, stimulants, alcohol, tranquillizer,hallucinogens

  • Diarrhoea/constipation/flatulence
  • Frequent urination
  • Allergies/skin rash
  • High blood pressure/coronary heart disease(angina/heart
  • attack)
  • Epilepsy
  • Dry skin
  • Chronic fatigue/exhaustion/burn-out
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Flu/common cold
  • Lowered immune system
  • Poor nutrition, exercise and recreation
  • Organic problems
  • Biologically based mental disorders

Stress in Multiday Running

As can be seen from the above, the effects of stress upon the body are comprehensive. Plus the additional factors of exhaustion and depletion it is obvious that some strategy is necessary to come through the experience not only physically, emotionally and mentally intact but willing to come back and do it again next year. The sources of pressure are inherent in the race itself. A multiday race is more than just a race, much more. It is an arena in which we engage all the various levels of our being to bring them into an harmonius resolution. For the stress response begins and ends within the individual. Our job then is to find ways of dealing with stress so that our bodies are unimpaired by the challenge.

Stress Management Techniques

During the race, our focus is drawn inwards and there in the mind our focus resides. Here is where the battle takes place and here is where the solution is to occur. In Indian psychology the breath is associated with the movements of the mind and so many meditation techniques that utilize a relaxed and even breathing pattern are suggested as being of tremendous benefit in helping the mind let go of the patterns that have emerged from the background of our awareness into the light of day. The type of thoughts associated with stress are, on the whole, negative and so a positive focus is going to be of help.

Reference:

  • [1]Source = Wikipedia
  • Palmer, S. and Dryden, W. (1995). Counselling for Stress Problems. London: Sage. Copyright 2000, Stephen Palmer