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How Well Do You Deal with Stress?
Posted 3/27/20 2:47:48 PM by Emily Pazel

One of the biggest complications that we face as human beings is dealing with stress. Stress affects everyone to a certain extent, but how well you learn to manage or cope with it can determine how it affects your overall health and your day-to-day actions, such as how well you handle stress at work, at school, or even with your loved ones.

With April marking the start of National Stress Awareness Month, we are here to give you some pointers on ways to identify the stressors in your life and learn how to better manage them in a way that will let you resume your normal daily functions with ease.

What is stress exactly?

Although everyone experiences stress from time to time, everyone experiences stress differently due to the varying types of pressures involved. Depending on what the stressor might be, it could be just a one-time or short-term occurrence or it can happen repeatedly over a long period of time.

Typically, stress can be broken down into three different categories:

  1. Routine stress that is related to the pressures of work, school, family, and other daily responsibilities
  2. Stress that is brought on by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce or illnesses
  3. Experiencing stress that happened during a major event, such as a major accident, war, assault or a natural disaster, which can cause traumatic stress

While stress may seem like it mainly has a negative impact on people, did you know that not all stress is bad? Weird, right? Here’s how.

Researchers believe that without stress signals in a dangerous situation, you would not know whether to flee for safety or prepare to face a threatening event. When experiencing this situation, you would feel your pulse quicken, your breathing become faster, and your muscles tense up. In these situations, your brain uses more oxygen and increases all activity, which results in your body responding in survival mode to stress. 

Another way that stress can be used in a positive light during non-life-threatening situations, such as taking a test or interviewing for a job, is motivation. When you feel your blood pumping and nerves taking over, that is your body’s way of motivating you to get through this intimidating situation.

However, research has also shown that long-term stress can become detrimental to your health. It’s important to know when too much stress over long periods of time starts to impact your health and ways to deal with it.

How can stress affect your health?

Unfortunately, stress symptoms could be impacting your health without you even realizing it. Sometimes general irritations and health concerns could be brought on by experiencing long-term stress. Leaving stress symptoms unchecked could contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and even diabetes.

Here are the most common effects of stress on your body:

  • Headaches – Experiencing headaches can often be associated with having anxiety, which can cause you to overeat or under eat and effect your overall physical weight.
  • Muscle tension or pain – When you experience muscle tension or pain from stress, it can cause you to have restlessness and can result in having angry outbursts at work or at home with your family.
  • Chest pain – If you are having chest pain from stress, if usually effects a lack of motivation or focus on your mood, which can result in an unwanted use of drugs or alcohol abuse.
  • Fatigue – Stress can cause fatigue in the body, which can lead to you feeling overwhelmed and could cause you to use tobacco products, such as cigarettes, more frequently for relief.
  • Change in sex drive – Experiencing a change in your sex drive could be a sign of stress on your body, which can result in you feeling irritable or angry and forcing you to socially withdrawal from your loved ones. 
  • Stomach upset – Having an upset stomach could be a sign of you experiencing stress on the body, which can lead to sadness or depression changes in your mood and can often times lead to you feeling more fatigued and exercising less than normal.
  • Sleep problems – One of the most common side effects of stress on the body is experiencing a lack of good, restful sleep at night.

While these problems may seem like ordinary issues, when left unchecked over long periods of time, these stress-related symptoms could cause larger scale health problems. So, in order to toss these problems out the window, it’s important to learn how to cope with stress in a healthy way. 

What are different ways to manage stress?

Taking practical steps towards managing your stress could come in handy while trying to reduce the risk of negative health effects. And while some people manage the daily stresses of life better than others, it’s a good idea for everyone to take a minute to review these helpful guidelines.

Here are some tips that may help you cope with stress:

  • Be observant – When people tell you to “listen to your body,” this is what they mean. You should be able to recognize the signs your body is signaling to you as a response to a stressful situation. These signs include anything from having a difficult time sleeping, increased use of alcohol or other substance abuse, being easily angered, feeling depressed, or having a general low sense of energy.
  • Talk to healthcare provider or professional – It is better to go ahead and talk to your healthcare provider about your stress instead of waiting for them to ask you. Be the one to start the conversation and get the proper health care for existing or new health concerns. There are effective treatments that can help reduce your stress if it is affecting your relationships or ability to work and do daily tasks.
  • Exercise regularly – Science has proven that even getting 30 minutes of daily regular exercise, such as walking or going to the gym, can help boost your mood and improve your overall health.
  • Try to relax – There are different techniques that you can try to help with relaxation or wellness, such as meditation, muscle relaxation or practicing breathing exercises. Maintaining a regular schedule for these activities can help with dealing with stress and your overall health.
  • Set goals and priorities – At home or at the office, it is important to set goals and priorities to accomplish your tasks. Decide what must get done now and what can wait. Make a priorities list and try to go through each one and check them off. Another great way to manage your tasks is by saying “no” to new tasks if you start to feel overwhelmed. Instead of worrying about all the tasks you did not get a chance to do, think about all the things you were able to accomplish.
  • Stay connected – It is important to remember that you are not alone. Keep in touch with people who can provide emotional support and practical help. To reduce stress, ask for help from friends, family, and community or even religious organizations.

If at any time you or someone that you know experiencing a stressful situation has suicidal thoughts, are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, or are using drugs or alcohol more frequently than normal, you should call a healthcare professional or a mental health provider. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALk (8255), which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

While dealing with stress is a common, every day occurrence for many people, there are ways to manage it in a health way and should not impact your day-to-day life. And as always, if you have a friend or family member going through a tough time, try to reach out to them to be their advocate and share this helpful advice with them.