Are the stresses in your life getting the best of you?

February 28, 2012

Anxiety, Cancer, Lifestyle, Stress

When we are stressed, our anxiety levels go off the charts, our hearts race, our stomachs churn and we simply feel overwhelmed.

by Dr. Eileen R. Borris — 

To live is to feel stressed. With all the economic uncertainty and our fast-paced ways, stress has become a fact of life for many of us. When we are stressed, our anxiety levels go off the charts, our hearts race, our stomachs churn and we simply feel overwhelmed.

The American Psychological Association’s 2007 “Stress in America” poll found that one-third of people in the U.S. report experiencing extreme levels of stress. In addition, nearly one in five report experiencing high levels of stress 15 or more days per month. While some stress can be good for you when managed in healthy ways, extreme stress takes both an emotional and a physical toll.

Managing stress poorly has its consequences, ranging from inhibiting the immune system to making us susceptible to certain diseases, including cancer, heart disease and obesity. Therefore, it is important for us to recognize when we are highly stressed and to know how to handle it in healthy ways. We can effectively learn how to manage stress by observing our emotions, attitudes, beliefs and behavior.

The American Psychological Association offers the following tips for managing stress:

Understand how you experience stress. Everyone experiences stress differently. How do you know when you are stressed? How are your thoughts or behaviors different from times when you do not feel stressed?

Identify your sources of stress. Which events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to your children, family, health, financial decisions, work, relationships — or something else?

Learn your own stress signals. People experience stress in different ways. You may have a hard time concentrating or making decisions; feel angry, irritable or out of control; or experience headaches, muscle tension or a lack of energy. Gauge your stress signals.

Recognize how you deal with stress. Determine if you are using unhealthy behaviors (such as smoking, drinking alcohol and over- or under-eating) to cope. Is this a routine behavior, or is it related to certain events or situations? Do you make unhealthy choices as a result of feeling rushed and overwhelmed?

Find healthy ways to manage stress. Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities such as meditation, exercising or talking things out with friends or family. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Do not take on too much at once. Focus on changing only one behavior at a time.

Take care of yourself. Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity. Ensure that you have a healthy mind and body through activities like doing yoga, taking short walks, going to the gym or playing sports that enhance both your physical and mental health. Take regular vacations or other breaks from work. No matter how hectic life gets, make time for yourself — even if it is just a simple thing like reading a good book or listening to your favorite music.

Reach out for support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, you may want to talk to a therapist who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.

 

Dr. Eileen Borris is a licensed psychologist in private practice for 25 years, specializing in marriage and relationship issues. erborris@cox.net, www.dreileenborris.com or 480-951-0544.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number  4, Aug/Sept 2009.

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