Managing Stress

Stress can be a simple frustration or a huge problem. It may be short-term, such as passing the next home economics quiz, or it may be long-term, such as choosing a career.

The main causes of stress are psychological. The effects of stress are both physical and psychological. As you react to stress your body undergoes changes. Early signs of stress include lip biting, nail nibbling, tooth grinding, and palm sweating. You may feel “butterflies” in your stomach, and your throat may become dry, making it hard to speak. Your heart rate and blood pressure may rise. Stress victims often feel grouchy and restless, are unable to concentrate, and lose sleep.

Under too much pressure, many people wheeze, ache, sneeze, or break out in rashes. Repeated tensing of the head, face, and neck muscles can narrow blood vessels and trigger headaches. Doctors report that well over half of all patients seeking treatment have no physical problems. The aches and pains are real, but they are caused by built-up emotions. Long-term stress can damage your physical and mental health and produce troubling behavior. People who deny their tension may also turn to alcohol or drugs, or strike out with words or fists to release their frustration..

Recognizing Stress

Change is one of the main causes of stress, particularly an unexpected or unpleasant change. Death, divorce, accidents, unemployment and moving to a new town are all stressful changes.

Sometimes you are not aware that you are reacting to stress. If you remain tense for a long time you will become exhaustedboth physically and mentally. Signs of stress are like warning lights telling you to slow down. They may indicate that you need to make changes or get some help. Pay attention to the signs of stress, they may signal serious problems.

Emotional Signs of Stress

Emotional signs of stress are often harder to spot than physical signs. They may include boredom, irritability, anger, depression, restlessness and carelessness.

Do you cry a lot? Do you have a poor self-image? Do you lack enthusiasm? Do you blame others for mistakes? If you answer “yes” to several of these questions, you may be suffering from stress. This is especially true if you would have answered “no” to these questions in the past.

Managing Stress

If you lead an active, involved life you can’t expect to be completely free of stress. However, you can learn to keep stress from building up. If you are angry or upset, try to blow off steam physically by running, playing tennis, walking or mowing the yard.

Train yourself to relax. Stretching, deep breathing or regular exercise can reduce tension. When you relax you loosen up and are more at ease. When you feel tension building up, take a break.

Take charge of your life. When stress builds, postpone important decisions and resist new demands. Practice saying “no” when someone urges you to take on more than you can fit into your schedule. Refuse to do anything that violates your personal values.

Get enough sleep and rest. Lack of sleep can lessen your ability to deal with stress. Most people need at least seven to eight hours of sleep a day. If stress repeatedly prevents you from sleeping, inform your doctor.

Talk over problems with a friend, family member, teacher, or counselor. Sometimes simply talking about a situation can help you see things in a new way. If you can’t seem to shake a feeling of anxiety or depression, seek help before problems become difficult.

Don’t use alcohol or other drugs to calm down. These will add to your stress later on. Drugs may seem to offer a shortcut to communication and friendship, but they do not. By trying to duck the struggles of life, users postpone the development of coping skills needed to manage normal stress and anxiety.

Try not to get upset about things you can’t do anything about. If the problem is beyond your control, try your best to accept it until it can be changed.

Sometimes when you are distressed you focus too much on yourself and your situation. When this happens, it is often wise to do something for someone else and get your mind off yourself. There is an extra bonus in this technique-it helps you make friends.

Make yourself available. Instead of withdrawing and feeling sorry for yourself, get involved in social activities. Later, take time to be alone. In one study, teens admitted spending more than a quarter of their waking hours by themselves. After returning to friends and family, they felt more cheerful, alert, and involved.

Schedule your time so you don^t have too much to do. Make daily and weekly “To Do” lists. Crossing off items as you finish them gives you a sense of accomplishment. Plan to spend time on things that are most important.

Other ways to manage stress:

  • Avoid too many changes at once.
  • Set reasonable goals for yourself.
  • Ask for help when you need a hand.

The way we deal with stress determines to a great extent the kind of lives we lead. Stressful situations can shatter us, or make us stronger. Although we cannot control everything that happens, we can influence more than we often think. Feeling helpless in the face of stress is the real enemy, not the stress itself.