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Beacon of HOPE Wellness Committee: Managing stress at the Beacon

June 14, 2017
By Nancy Buthman ( , Pine Island Eagle

Stress - we all feel it, don't we? Stress is a normal part of life and not all stress is bad. How we manage it is important to living a happy and healthy life.

So what is stress? It is the way the body responds naturally to any threat - to anything that is different than usual. When this happens our body activates a "fight or flight" response to deal with the issue. Hormones are released including adrenaline which increases our heart rate, our blood pressure and boosts our energy level and cortisol, which increases sugar levels to use as energy. Our body responds to and helps us deal with the threat. When the threat is over, our hormones return to normal. This stress is the good kind - it heightens our ability to stay clear minded when the pressure is on and helps us deal with the problem. It can be a positive force for growth and change in our life.

On the other hand, chronic stress occurs when our body doesn't return to normal and our hormones stay elevated even after the threat is gone. This can stem from common worries we all face at one time or another in our lives. It may be difficulty at work, an unhappy marriage, our children, school or money concerns. How we respond to stress also matters - if we don't manage it well any stress can become chronic. This can lead to a variety of health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, sleep problems, anxiety, depression and headaches.

None of us can completely eliminate stress from our life. But the good news is we can reduce the amount of stress we experience and we can manage how we respond to it.

The experience of stress is very individualized. What is stress to one may not be to another. How we respond to a stressful event may also be different. Learning what your stressers are and how to respond to them is a key to learning to manage them in better and healthier ways.

Signs of stress include being angry, irritable, depressed, worrying more than usual, having a short temper, over-reacting, lack of concentration, being moody. Physical signs include neck or shoulder pain, back pain, changes in sleep patterns, upset stomach, headaches, tense muscles, increased heart rate, fatigue, loss of interest in sex and low energy. Researchers at the University of Miami found that 90 percent of people in stressful situations ate 40 percent more food than normal and 10 percent ate less - in either case it's not a healthy response.

So, what do we do? Number one is to keep the things that stress us out from happening as frequently. Organization is one of the most obvious areas that we can control but also the most neglected. Getting organized can give you a sense of control and peace of mind, knowing you have things taken care of. Getting organized can be as simple as making a list, planning your day ahead of time and deciding which tasks need to be done first. Set some goals. Break problems down into manageable pieces - don't try to solve everything all at once. Take it one step at a time and celebrate each time you complete a task. We all need to feel a little success in our life.

Effective stress management means taking charge of your life. Start with some healthy habits like eating better and getting a little exercise. Take a walk - exercise is a strong antidote for depression and anxiety. It also helps us sleep better, which is another part of dealing with stress. Try reading, listening to soft music or download a meditation or relaxation app to use before bedtime. Use other relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or massage. Even deep breathing can lower your heart rate. Take time to relax.

Look for the positives in life. Work on your sense of humor. Talk frequently with family and friends - having a strong social support group is very important. Take time for hobbies, volunteer. Don't be afraid to get help if you need it.

And finally, there are many unhealthy ways of coping with stress including alcohol, drugs, pain meds, over-eating and smoking. When we do these things we may feel relief at the moment but that feeling never lasts. In fact, they actually make the stress worse and make us even more sensitive to more stress.

Research shows that how good you feel is largely up to you and the choices you make. Stressful situations are a fact of life. Maybe you can't change the situation but you can manage the impact these things have on you and make your life better.

It's time to take charge of your life!

Join us for a program on stress given by Mickey, a clinical social worker, Monday, June 19, at 1 p.m., at the Beacon of HOPE.

If you have any concerns you want the committee to address, please let us know at the Beacon of HOPE - 239-283-5123 or visit

The Beacon of HOPE is at 5090 Doug Taylor Circle, St James City.



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