Much research has been conducted on understanding stress and there are several things that have become evident. Of most concern is the fact that stress is implicated in the six leading causes of death in this country. This makes stress one of the most toxic of the preventable contributors to illness. Managing stress may entail adjusting your attitude and behavior, but this is one of the best investments that you will ever make. You can feel more relaxed, more competent and productive by learning how to manage stress in your life. There is also ample evidence that stress does not always have the negative impacts that we hear about. Check out a great 14 minute TedTalk by Kelly McGonigal on “How to Make Stress Your Friend” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU) where she describes the characteristics that differentiate those who seem to manage stress well from those who do not.
Most people have heard of the “fight or flight” response. It is the basis of the biochemical damage that is inflicted on the mind and body during periods of prolonged stress. At times of perceived threat, there is an outpouring of adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol, stimulant hormones, into our bloodstreams. These hormones have a protective intent, because they prepare our body to either fight or run away from the perceived threat. The body prepares by having increased heart rate and blood pressure (to get more blood to the muscles, brain, and heart) faster breathing (to get more oxygen), general tensing of the muscles (for quick reaction), and increased mental and sensory awareness. Most of us can relate these biochemical changes to feeling “shaky”, “nervous”, or “tense”. Stress is a fact of life. But too much stress can cause problems. It can affect your mental and physical health and damage relationships with friends and family. Unless you take steps to reduce or manage stress, tension can build up inside. You’ll be better able to manage your stress if you recognize some of the symptoms:
|change in appetite||anger||being late to work|
|pounding heart||lack of direction||neglecting appearance|
|nightmares||feeling trapped||avoiding tasks|
|muscles aches||racing thoughts||over eating|
|sleeping problems||worrying frequently||poor job performance|
|stomach aches||feeling rejected||procrastination|
|constipation or diarrhea||feelings of helplessness||loss of appetite|
|chest pains||irritability||increased drugs|
The good news is that there are MANY things one can do on a an hourly, daily and weekly basis to manage one’s stress reactions, from deep breathing, meditation, exercise and mindfulness relaxation.
We have found there are several components to successful stress management programs, but since each person has his or her own individual stresses and styles, a stress management program that is tailored to your own personal needs will be most successful for you.
Anger is also a natural part of life but in excess can create many problems. Here are a few short tips on how to manage anger that come from Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence”:
- Seize on and challenge the thoughts that trigger the surge of anger
- Cool off physiologically by waiting out the adrenal surge in a setting where there are not likely to be further triggers for rage
- Relaxation Interventions (deep breathing) work because it is impossible to be both angry and relaxed simultaneously