You and Stress


STRESS HAPPENS when we are faced with difficult situations, it can be good because it makes us more alert and gives us a burst of energy. For instance, if I start to cross the street and see a car about to run me over, that jolt I feel helps me to jump out of the way before I get hit. But long term stress takes a toll on our health.

COMMON CAUSE OF STRESS is when we feel overwhelmed by all of our responsibilities both long or short term. Missing the bus or arguing with my partner can cause short-term stress. Money problems or trouble at work can cause long-term stress. Even happy events, like having a baby or getting married can cause stress. Some of the most common stressful life events include: Death of a spouse, death of a close family member, divorce, losing our job, major personal illness or injury, marriage or separation, pregnancy, retirement, spending time in jail.

EVERYONE RESPONDS TO STRESS DIFFERENTLY Signs to look for: not eating or eating too much, feeling like you have no control, needing to have too much control, forgetfulness, headaches, lack of energy, lack of focus, trouble getting things done, poor self-esteem, short temper, trouble sleeping, upset stomach, back pain, general aches and pains. These symptoms may also be signs of depression or anxiety, which can be caused by long-term stress.

WOMEN, MEN AND STRESS  A recent survey found that women were more likely to experience physical symptoms of stress than men. Women often cope with stress in different ways than men. Women “tend and befriend” taking care of those closest to them, but also drawing support from friends and family. Men are more likely to have the fight or flight response. They cope by escaping into a relaxing activity or other distraction. Women are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop PTSD than men. People with ongoing stress in their lives are more likely to develop PTSD after a dangerous event.

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur after living through or seeing a dangerous event. It can also occur after experiencing a sudden traumatic event. This can include being a victim of or seeing violence, being a victim of sexual or physical abuse or assault, the death or serious illness of a loved one, fighting in a war, a severe car crash or a plane crash, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires.  PTSD symptoms may begin right after the event or months or years later.  Symptoms may include nightmares, flashbacks, or feeling like the event is happening again, avoiding places, people or things that remind you of the event, strong guilt, depression, or worry, trouble sleeping, feeling numb, having trouble remembering the event.

TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES Even though it may seem hard to find ways to de-stress with all the things we have to do, it’s important to find those ways. Our health depends on it. Everyone has to deal with stress but there are steps we can take to help us handle stress in a positive way and keep it from making us sick.  If you are currently in a crisis, call a Crisis Line by dialing 211 in most areas, or dial 911 for an emergency response.

MASSAGE:  Get someone (anyone!) to gently massage your neck and upper back. Train your young grandkids to do this. Once a month get a professional therapeutic massage. If you are new to this idea, please know that you control the session until you become comfortable with the therapist.

EAT WHOLE GRAINS: Fuel yourself with whole grains. Don’t be fooled by the jolt you get from caffeine or high-sugar foods. That energy wears off, and you end up feeling more tired.

NON-CARE METHOD: Drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, smoking, or overeating.

SMALL CHANGES MAKE BIG DIFFERENCES:  Find out if you can change your work hours to avoid traffic before and after work. See if you can get help with picking up and dropping off kids or pets.  Get everyone in the household to help with laundry, dinner, and shopping.  Then, do something for yourself – take a walk, do breathing exercises, lie down for 10 minutes.

PROBLEM SOLVING. Solving small problems goes a long way to helping you feel less stressed. Think ahead about how you’re going to spend your time. Write a to-do list. Figure out what is most important to do and do those things first.  Make a list of things that stress you.Decide what you can solve now.  Accept those beyond your control for now.  Solve the ones you can, starting small. Calmly look at a problem, think of possible solutions, and then take action one problem at a time.

DO THINGS YOU WANT TO DO. We are so busy doing what we have to do, we don’t take the time to do the things that we really want to do. It could be listening to music, reading a good book, or going to a movie. Think of this as an Rx from your doctor, so you won’t feel guilty!

COMMUNITY:  Participate in life. AVOID ISOLATION. Regularly being and talking with others in a safe atmosphere relieves stress. Volunteering can help you make new friends and feel better. Talking about problems with friends or family members may help you feel better, depending on the cause of the stress.


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