Coping with Stress
Coping with Stress

Newsfeed display by CaRP Stress is a fact of life, but it need not be a way of life. There are many things in life that you can't control, but very few that you can't learn to manage, including the negative aspects of stress.

The human body reacts to stress with a "fight or flight" response. This response evolved over the years when our ancestors came face to face with a hostile situation such as an encounter with a tiger. The body has a surge of adrenaline, which prepares the body for a physically challenging event. This physiologic response was intended to be infrequent.

Unfortunately, many people today interpret their environment as hostile the majority of the time. This causes numerous physiologic changes to occur in the body. The blood pressure increases, the pulse rate increases and over a long period of time, the immune system begins to falter. This would explain why individuals who are under a lot of stress become ill more frequently than usual. An example would be college students studying for finals. They tend to have a high incidence of colds and other infections. This is because they stay up late at night and put their bodies through a lot of stress. Stress can also play a part in the development of heart disease. The high adrenaline state accelerates the development of heart disease. The blood tends to clot more rapidly. This would explain why individuals subjected to an acute stressful event can have a heart attack. They almost always have underlying heart disease.

Your security office is concerned about stress in the workplace, because too much stress or chronic stress can lead to poor judgment. No employee ever exploded in violence, committed suicide, stole government property, became a spy or engaged in any other destructive or self-destructive behavior because they were happy and relaxed. They were stressed out and desperate. A safe and secure office environment is one in which employees know how to recognize and manage the negative aspects of stress.

The positive aspect of stress is that it can help you concentrate, focus, and reach peak performance. Many people do their best work when under moderate pressure. Then, when the challenge has been met, they take time to relax and enjoy their achievement. This relaxation response enables them to build up the physical and emotional reserves to meet the next challenge.

Stress becomes negative when you stay uptight and don't -- or can't -- relax after meeting the challenge. Too much stress can leave you tired, irritable, angry, tense, anxious, frustrated and depressed. Chronic, ongoing stress can lead to emotional problems and physical illness.

The first step to managing stress is to become aware of the things that cause your stress. Once you realize what causes your stress, try to focus on how your body feels under stress. "Listen" to your body for signs such as irritability, headaches, a knot in your stomach, tensed muscles, clenched teeth, cold or clammy hands, or other symptoms that tell you are under stress. There are many potential causes of stress both at home and in the workplace, and many different bodily reactions to stress. Recognizing what causes your stress and how your particular body reacts to stress is the first step to finding solutions to the problem.

The many potential solutions include:
1. Recognize when your body is telling you it's time to take a break.
2. Learn any of the wide variety of relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, stretching, meditation, Yoga, clearing your mind, progressive muscular relaxation, visualization, etc.
3. Improve work habits, such as learning how to manage your time better.
4. Avoid the circumstances that create stress.
5. Adjust your priorities; decide what is really most important in your life.
6. Adopt more realistic career goals.
7. Resolve not to let yourself be provoked or upset by others' behavior.
8. Talk out problems with a friend or supervisor.
9. Go out of your way to improve relationships with family, friends, co-workers and supervisor.
10. Develop a healthier or more positive lifestyle with good nutrition and appropriate exercise.
11. Seek professional help.

First of all, try to identify the factors that create stress in your life. Consider options to avoid the stressful situation altogether. If your job is the cause of most of your stress, consider a job change. This seems like a dramatic step, but it is an option that can really help. If you are unable to avoid certain stressful situations, then you will need to learn to cope with the situation. Avoid committing yourself to every project that comes your way. It is important to know your limitations. Learn how to say "no." Sometimes, taking a vacation can be rejuvenating.

A conversation with a friend may give you support and emotional release. You may discover that you are not the only one having a "bad day," caring for a sick child, or working in a busy office. Sharing your feelings and frustrations with friends and family may also help them better understand what you are going through. Let your family and friends provide support and guidance.

The benefits of fresh air and sunlight are great for you and the whole family. Sunshine is known to increase the levels of vitamin D in your body, and some research has shown that sunlight's effects can be helpful with some forms of depression.

Exercise cannot only help improve your physical health, but also relieves stress and allows your mind to relax. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week (at least 3-5 days a week).

Sleep is very important to your overall health, especially when dealing with the stress. Without adequate sleep the body functions at half speed and tires out half way through the day.

Developing healthy sleeping patterns can greatly increase your energy and may help improve your attitude throughout the day. Most adults require about 8 hours of sleep each night. If you don't "have the time" try to fit in an energizing short nap for 10-20 minutes during the day.

Regular exercise is one of the best antidotes for our stressful lives. Exercise is a natural tranquilizer. Every symptom of stress can be improved or eliminated by regular exercise. Patients frequently will say that they simply don't have time to exercise. In reality, the time invested in exercise will easily pay for itself" in improved efficiency. Concentration improves so mental tasks can be accomplished more rapidly. Sleep improves and the overall energy level is increased, which allows physical tasks to be accomplished faster.

Meditation can help us deal with our stressful lives. Yoga is a great way to reduce stress. Studies have shown that daily meditation can actually reduce blood pressure. Music therapy has been shown to have a calming effect. Caring for a pet can help us cope with the daily stressers of life.

Discussing your problems with friends can be therapeutic. If things get out of hand, you may need to seek professional help through a counselor. Sometimes the symptoms of stress can be related to the underlying chemical imbalance of depression. In this case, medication may be indicated. Lastly, try to maintain a positive attitude. This can be therapeutic in itself.


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Submitted: 07/26/06

Description: Stress is a fact of life, but it need not be a way of life. There are many things in life that you can't control, but very few that you can't learn to manage, including the negative aspects of stress.

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