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Beacon of HOPE Wellness Committee: How well do you manage your stress?

November 20, 2019
By Nancy Buthman, APRN , Pine Island Eagle

Stress is a normal part of life and not all stress is bad. How we manage it is important to have a healthy life. Stress can either help us learn and lead to a better life or can cause significant problems.

What is stress?

Stress is the way the body responds naturally to anything that is a threat to us, that is anything that is different than usual. This threat occurs and the body activates the "fight or flight" syndrome to deal with the problem.

This controls mood, motivation and fear and helps you deal with the threat. When it's over, things go back to normal. This stress is good. It heightens the ability to stay clear minded to deal with the problem. It is meant to be temporary. It can be a positive thing.

Chronic stress is when the stress does not return to normal and the hormones stay elevated. This can stem from many chronic situations such as poverty, a job (whether good or bad), unhappy marriage, parenting, school exams, etc. It also occurs when one does not manage other stresses well and they become chronic. This leads to many health issues. There is an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, sleep problems, cancer, lung disease, digestive problems, memory and concentration problems, anxiety, depression and headaches. Muscles tense up and if they can't relax there are many aches and pains.

We cannot completely eliminate these stresses from our lives but can learn to avoid and manage them. It is an important key to staying healthy.

The experience of stress is very individualized. What is very stressful to one may not be to another. How your react to an event may be different, too. The signs and symptoms of severe stress are individualized as well.

It is important to learn what are your stressors. Note in what ways you respond to them. Then you can learn to manage it in better and healthier ways.

Signs of stress to watch for include being angry, irritable, depressed, more worried than usual, having a short temper, overeating, 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 and loss of libido and less energy.

Researchers at the University of Miami found that 90% of people in stressful situations consume 40% more food than normal. 10% of the people eat less.

You can keep some stressors from occurring. Organize your life. This is one of the most obvious ones and the most neglected. It gives a sense of control and piece of mind knowing you have things taken care of. Plan your time and make lists. Decide which tasks need to be done first. Prepare for a stressful event such as a job interview. Set goals and priorities.

Effective stress management means taking charge of your life. First of all, fight stress with healthy habits. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly. Studies have found that exercise is a strong antidote for depression and anxiety. It also helps people sleep better. Use relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, meditation, massage. Develop a sense of humor. Strong social support is very important. Talk frequently with family and friends. Take time for hobbies, volunteer. Take time to relax. Find a relaxing activity that you enjoy. Get help if you need it.

There are many unhealthy ways of coping with stress that actually makes the stress worse, adds more stress and makes us more reactive to further stress. These include drugs, pain meds, overeating, too much alcohol, smoking.

Research shows that how good you feel is to a large extent up to you. 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.

The Beacon of HOPE is at 5090 Doug Taylor Circle, St James City. For additional information, please call 239-283-5123.

 
 

 

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