Do you feel out of control (personally, professionally, or socially)? Do you have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep? Do you have a rundown feeling or have frequent illnesses? Do you eat, drink, or smoke when you are nervous? If you can identify with a few of these conditions, then you are suffering from a high level of stress!
A “normal” stress in our bodies can be a positive force of “getting ready” to meet life’s challenges. It can come from mental, emotional, or physical activity. Stress is the flow of adrenalin (neurotransmitter substance in the brain), the tense muscles, the rise in blood pressure that occurs to meet any demand that is made upon us (eg. physical, emotional, or mental). Stress is an essential part of performance that motivates us; it get us ready for action and keeps us concentrating and functioning properly. However, when stress occurs too often it can be too severe, to the point of inhibiting our task or job performance. Stress then becomes a negative force that can make us lose efficiency or leave us feeling “out of control.” Stress can even take its toll in the form of chronic illnesses such as: depression, anxiety, mood swings, hypertension, ulcers, headaches or migraines, pain the neck or shoulder, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Here are a few basic guidelines to cope with stress and anxiety:
1. Listen to your body symptoms and recognize any ill feelings.
2. Figure out what made you feel stressed – what happened today or yesterday that made you feel that way?
3. Allow yourself permission to feel anxious about what bothers you. Be in charge of your mood – “don’t lose it!”.
4. Try to think if you can change anything to make the situation less serious (be prepared and organize for change).
5. Know your limitations! Don’t push yourself “over the edge,” be assertive, and learn to say “no” sometimes.
6. Be organized. Prioritize your lifestyle – don’t do too much too soon (eg. pick up the kids, buy groceries, clean the house, etc.). Try to allocate chores to other family members or friends to help assist you.
7. Be positive! Stop criticism and negative thoughts, accept yourself exactly as you are – remember nobody is perfect! When you criticize yourself, your changes are negative. When you approve yourself, your changes are positive. Try to find a mental image in your mind that gives you pleasure. This will turn your negative thoughts into happy ones.
8. Take extra care of your body. Learn about nutrition, eat a healthy diet, exercise, and take walks. Extra oxygen releases endorphins (NTS) in the brain, which releases a feeling of well being, a “natural high.” Listen to soft music, learn how to meditate, and try to relax and sleep well.
9. Invest/confide in a good friendship with someone you trust (eg. spouse, relative, friend, neighbor) and share with them your thoughts, feelings, fears, or anger.
10. Be good to yourself! Be kind, loving, and forgiving. Hate perpetuates hostility, rage, and anger. Love gives a feeling of oneness, joy, success, harmony, and peace of mind.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to deal or cope with stress, please seek outside help to help you sort out your problems and create a plan of action. If you would like to speak with someone, please call Apex Behavioral Health at Westland, (724) 729-3133.
By: Hoda Amine-Majed, PH.D.., DCSW