Take a Break Before You Break
Stress Management An Overview
Picture this you’re waiting in anticipation of an exciting event. Perhaps it’s the birth of a child or the purchase of a new home. The preparation can create feelings of happiness and excitement can be stressful and overwhelming but you manage to pull through.
Now picture this. The holidays are coming. You’re unemployed and you’re struggling to pay your bills. If you can’t pay your bills, how will you come up with money to buy gifts for your children? You’re heart and mind start racing and you’re feeling stressed. You get depressed, frustrated and angry and you start dreading the holidays.
Do you recognize the difference between the two situations above? Why is it that in the two situations that cause stress, one is accepted and well managed while the other is not? I think I just gave you the answer. One situation is well managed.
Can you recognize when you’re feeling stressed? What are your symptoms associated with stress? Can you recognize the source of your stress? Do you have a plan for managing your stress? If you answered yes to all four questions you are well on your way to being in control of your reaction to stressful situations. However, the reality is that for most individuals managing stress can be a difficult thing to do.
Stress is your body’s way of responding to a sudden change, demand or threat. Stress management is one of the most common concerns of people today, and with good reason. Chronic stress can lower your immunity, impact your relationships, affect your sleep, and lead to major health issues or unhealthy coping.
Here are some startling facts about stress that you may not be aware. According to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA) on Stress in America the top four sources of stress are: Money; Work (if employed), Family Responsibilities and Health.
The symptoms of stress can begin to cause severe problems in our lifestyle over time. Not all stress has to be bad but when you are experiencing ongoing chronic stress, this can lead to some problems with your health.
It doesn’t take long before stress can start to take over our lifestyle and begin to change the way that we interact with other individuals as well as live our lives. Here are some of the top unhealthy symptoms that you can start to see as a result of severe stress:
Easy to agitate: when we are under overwhelming amounts of stress we might find ourselves feeling easily frustrated, moody or even agitated. This is because it’s been difficult for us to relax and you may feel overwhelmed.
Depression: under extreme stress you may start to experience low self-esteem as well as a chance of avoiding others. With extreme stress situations you could fall into a deeper level of depression which can cause a number of problems with the relationships in your life.
Physical symptoms: aches and pains, upset stomach, low energy levels, difficulty with headaches, extreme nervousness and more.
Trouble sleeping: insomnia is quite common among people experiencing high degrees of stress this can lead to excess stress and anxiety as a result.
Cognitive problems: in extremely stressful situations we often experience thoughts that are racing, a constant worrying sensation as well as lots of disorganization with thoughts and focus.
Major behavioral changes: behavioral changes can also come as a result of stress and these can manifest in drugs and alcohol, extra nervous behaviors as well as ongoing changes in our appetite. NOTE: Children experience stress too. Behavioral changes in children are often a clue that your child may be stressed.
The effects of long-term stress:
When we start to experience long-term stressful symptoms which are chronic this can lead to a huge number of health consequences. People that experience long-term symptoms of stress can also be plagued by a number of long-term health effects including:
A higher risk of cardiovascular disease
Problems with obesity and eating disorders which can in turn caused diabetes and other health problems.
Mental health risk issues for anxiety, depression and personality disorders.
Ongoing issues with acne and skin/hair problems.
Gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux and more.
Managing stress levels
Managing stress is absolutely essential to minimizing the risk for some of these severe health symptoms that can occur as a result of ongoing and prolonged stress levels. Unless you can find a way to manage stress it can be very difficult for you to remain healthy. Here are some top methods that could be used to help you to managing your stress levels on a daily basis:
Recognize when stress is becoming a problem: This is crucial as having awareness can be one of the first signs that it’s time to start employing some stress management techniques.
Cut out caffeine: caffeine can make stress much more amplified and when you are regularly consuming alcohol, nicotine or caffeine. This can increase the level of stress that you experience as well as many of the chemical triggers that stress can cause within your body.
Exercise: exercise can be overwhelmingly positive for dealing with stress as it can help to curb some of the adrenaline and cortisol responses in your body to stress by using them in physical activity. Our bodies tend to experience a fight or flight response when dealing with stress and as a result it’s possible to go out and get some fresh air or incorporate exercise to burn off these enhanced energy levels. As a result of exercise you can also help with some of the conditions you might experience like insomnia as a result of stress.
Keep healthy sleep habits: not getting enough sleep can be a huge cause for a stressful situation. Stress can not only interrupt a good night sleep but can also lead to problems with sickness, cognitive functions and more. Make sure that you’re going to bed at the same time each day and striving for around the same amount of sleep.
Seek help: sometimes expressing some of your feelings or having someone that you can confide in can be a huge help for reducing stress. Talking to a therapist or even just talking to a close friend about a stressful situation can really help to bring your stress levels down exponentially.
Try relaxation techniques: Using breathing techniques or opting for guided meditation or short meditation each day will help you refocus your mind and relax even when faced with extreme stresses in your life.
Don’t let your stress take over: if a problem seems impossible to solve do what you can to break it down into steps. Sometimes we experience stress when a problem seems insurmountable but if we take control and find a way to problem solve our way around a difficult challenge it can make us feel great as well as help us to avoid stress.
Work on time management skills: having extra time available in your day to submit your most important tasks is an extremely important way that you can manage stress and manage your time more effectively. Use a planner, check out some applications that might restrict you away from distracting websites and do what you can to maximize your time to minimize stress.
Keep some of these top strategies in mind for managing your stress levels and remember that recognizing severe stress is essential to reducing your stress levels and improving your overall health.
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“Stress Symptoms: Effects of Stress on the Body.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2016.
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American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/stress-in-america