By L. Glowiak & A. Bernatchy, CCSU Students | New Britain Health District at August 10, 2012 | 9:19 am | Print
With the economy struggling and all of the negative things we hear in the news, it is no wonder people cannot relax. Many people are faced with a variety of different stressors that are impacting their health and everyday lives. Recently, stress has come to be known as America’s number one health problem.
Stress is what you feel when you have too much to handle. When you are stressed your body responds as though you are in immediate physical danger, which triggers the fight or flight response. Your heart rate speeds up, you breathe faster, and you feel a burst of energy. Some stress is normal and can actually be useful when you need to work hard or react quickly. But when stress occurs too often or lasts for a long period of time, it can negatively affect you and your body.
Some common causes of stress are work, school, relationships, major life changes, money, and self- stressors. According to The American Institute of Stress, a few signs and symptoms that you are excessively stressed include headache, fatigue, sweating, restlessness, pain, upset stomach, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, frustration, sleep disturbances and racing thoughts. Stress takes a huge toll on your body whether it is mentally, physically, or emotionally; and therefore can lead to chronic health issues. PsycCentral lists health issues that arise from continuously high stress levels as hypertension, fatigue, depression, anxiety, amenorrhea, increased risk for stroke, increased risk for cardiac events, increased risk of infection, increased risk of respiratory problems, and diabetes. In order to decrease our stress levels and the impact that stress has on us, we need find ways to minimize or relieve the stress.
There are many healthy ways that you can deal with your stress. Look at your habits, attitude, and excuses. Do you tend to define stress as a normal, integral part of your home life? Do you blame your stress on others, or view it as entirely normal? Asking yourself questions like these, as well as starting a stress journal will help you be on your way to managing your stress in a healthy manner. A stress journal will help you recognize patterns and common themes as to what is causing your stress, and how you are managing it.
When attempting to relieve stress, know your limits and learn to say “no” by refusing to accept added responsibilities. Having a To-do list can help organize your daily tasks. If you have too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts”. Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress and it only sets you up for failure. Be reasonable with your standards and learn to be okay with “good enough”. Don’t try and control the uncontrollable, share your feelings with a trusted friend and learn to forgive. Be sure that you set aside relaxation time. It is important that you rest your body and mind for proper completion of tasks. The Mayo Clinic suggests exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet will help reduce and prevent stress. Reducing caffeine and sugar from your diet will give your more energy, improve your mood, and help you sleep better at night. Do not self medicate with alcohol, cigarettes and drugs since these will only provide a temporary escape from stress.
Stress is inevitable, but how we chose to deal with it is most important. When stress is getting you down, take time to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control. Remember, stress free is the way to be!