Stressed out?

  • Published
  • By Jackie Williams
  • Family Advocacy Outreach
Many people are surprised to learn that positive changes in their lives bring on the same stressful effects as negative ones. Stress is not tension or pressure, but the way your body responds to change. Understanding stress and its effects can help you use it to your advantage to turn distress into positive challenges. First, you must realize that your body can't tell the difference between positive or negative stress and, as such, experiences the same stress effects. If a stressful situation goes on for too long without any relief, you may experience harmful physical symptoms such as colds, ulcers, asthma, heart attack or stroke. You may also feel tired, irritable, depressed, anxious, and you may have trouble with sleeping, eating (either too much or too little), drinking and smoking. Recognize these and other symptoms for the warning signs they are. Actively help your body recover from stress (even positive stress) to protect your health.

Understanding what stress is and how you might react is half the battle. Learning ways to eliminate, or at least control, stressful effects on your body and your mind is the other half. The following techniques are a few examples of the many ways you can relieve the negative effects of stress both emotionally and physically.

Self-talk: Thinking to yourself, about yourself, is self-talk. Positive self-talk is reassuring and encouraging, and ultimately helps you succeed. Negative self-talk "I'll never be able to do this" encourages failure. In terms of stress, it can cause or increase your distress, or even encourage self-destructive behavior such as too much alcohol. You can learn to listen to your self-talk and whenever you hear negative self-talk, stop and deliberately think the opposite "I will be able to do this." By practicing positive self-talk you will feel happier, more confident, and less stressed.

Optimism: Having an optimistic attitude can help counteract the negative effects of stress and improve your overall health. "Seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty" is choosing to feel hopeful about a situation and makes positive self-talk easier. Optimism can help accomplish a surprising number of personal and work goals.

Worry efficiently: Make your worries work for you. List all the worries you have in two categories: those you can influence and those you cannot. Focus on just those problems you can influence and let those other worries go. Accepting that there are some situations that you cannot control, will free you to resolve those situations you can.

Artificial aids: Use of artificial aids is not recommended for relief from stress. Cigarettes, caffeine, and sugar increase your stress level because they are stimulates. Your body is stimulated for a while but later your energy level drops. You are left unstable, depressed, and more stressed. Alcohol and drug use may even have a more devastating effect on your body and mind. Use of such crutches may actually increase stress, generate new problems, and harm your immune, circulatory, and nervous systems.

Relax: Relax your body by deep breathing. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly. Let your breath out for a count of 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat ten times. Stretching: gently and slowly practice simple stretches.

Exercise: any physical activity (with your doctor's OK) such as walking, biking, running, swimming, or bowling helps relieves stress. Taking a long, uninterrupted soak in a bubble bath, eating well, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, lowering fat amount in diet, and drinking lots of water can help. Relax your mind by talking with a friend. Listen to responses. Laugh, cry, and read. Do something you love (even if it's a physical activity you are relaxing your emotions).

Preventing stress build up

Stress cannot always be avoided (which is why it's important to understand what stress is and how to relieve its negative effects), but there are steps you can take to lessen its impact on you:
Call Behavioral Health at 481-5376 for strategies to effectively cope with stress. 
-- Have fun. Play is just as important as work. 
-- Volunteer. Giving of yourself helps you keep things in perspective. 
-- Learn to forgive and forget. Holding grudges serves no useful purpose. 
-- Create a routine. Regular planning will help avoid stressful rushes. Be careful not to become rigid and lose spontaneity. 
-- Join an exercise class that meets regularly (and attend). 
-- If something is bothering you that you have the power to change, do so. If you can't change it, accept it or figure out a way around it. 
-- Learn to say no. You can't be productive when you're overworked. 
-- Develop and engage in a hobby you find relaxing. 
-- Eat foods that add to your energy level such as vegetables and high fiber foods. 
-- Give yourself plenty of time when making important life changes. If possible avoid making major changes close together. 
-- Reminding yourself of a poor choice you made in the past is wasted energy. Learn from the experience and go forward from there.

Family Advocacy education and support services offer you and your spouse tools to learn and build healthy family relationships. Programs generally include: parenting education and skills development, conflict resolution for parents and teens, communication skills for couples and families, anger and stress management, new parent support and home visits, health education for new parents, and Family Advocacy counseling.
Interested in our services. 
For more information, call 481-6764.