"About Stress--What It Is and How to Stop It!"

Stressed businessman with broken mechanism head screams

     A little bit of stress is healthy-it can keep us productive, on task, and alert. Many people experience too much stress and it can result in serious physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms. Stress is one way that our bodies respond to the various demands in our lives and learning how to manage stress when faced with it can allow greater satisfaction in life. Being able to identify the ways in which you show stress will aid you in preventing further mental duress.

     Stress can show up in different ways. Routine stress is related to every day pressures of work, managing family activities, engaging in peer networks, and typical daily responsibilities such as household chores. Traumatic stress is related to the aftermath of traumatic events such a car accidents, sudden deaths, assaults, natural disasters, and war. Sudden Onset stress is related to sudden negative change such as divorce, illness, or losing a job. 

     Physical symptoms: These symptoms will show up in our bodies through our physical being. Some examples of physical symptoms include: fatigue, sleep difficulties, stomach aches, chest pains, neck and back pain, nausea, headaches and migraines, muscle pain and tension, increased sweating, and a weakened immune system allowing you to be more susceptible to colds and flues. 

     Emotional symptoms: Emotional symptoms can be positive or negative but in the context of stress will appear more negative. The following emotional symptoms can occur as a reaction to a stressful environment or from stress within: decreased sex drive, mood instability, anxiety, depression, increased irritability and anger, loss of motivations, restless, and inability to focus.  

     Behavioral symptoms: Behavioral symptoms of stress will show up as actions in our behavior as a way to cope with the uncomfortable feelings stress brings. Such behaviors might include: unhealthy eating (overeating or under eating), nail biting, fidgeting, social withdrawal, drug or alcohol abuse, and over spending.

     To avoid experiencing stress over a prolonged period of time, engage in healthy coping strategies to help reduce the negative effects on your mind and body. The most effective stress-busting activities are exercising, meditation, journaling, talking to a close friend or family member, being creative through projects or art, cooking, watching a comedy movie, reading, learning a new hobby, or merely taking the dog out for a walk at a park.  Switching your mind to a different activity, even just for 15 minutes, is proven to decrease the effects of stress.

     Finally, working with a therapist or participating in a support group can help you learn how to better identify symptoms and enact appropriate coping skills.