Stress can be both physical and mental
You may feel physical stress which is the result of too much to do, not enough sleep, a poor diet or the effects of an illness. Stress can also be mental: when you worry about money, a loved one's illness, retirement, or experience an emotionally devastating event, such as the death of a spouse or being fired from work.
However, much of our stress comes from less dramatic everyday responsibilities. Obligations and pressures which are both physical and mental are not always obvious to us. In response to these daily strains your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to you muscles. This response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation.
However, when you are constantly reacting to stressful situations without making adjustments to counter the effects, you will feel stress which can threaten your health and well-being.
It is essential to understand that external events, no matter how you perceive those events which may cause stress. Stress often accompanies the feeling of "being out of control."
How do I know if I am suffering from stress?
Remember, each person handles stress differently. Some people actually seek out situations which may appear stressful to others. A major life decision, such as changing careers or buying a house, might be overwhelming for some people, while others may welcome the change. Some find sitting in traffic too much to tolerate, while others take it in stride. The key is determining your personal tolerance levels for stressful situations.
Health Effects of Stress
* Stress can cause sleep problems, leaving you fatigued and vulnerable to accidents and illness.
* It can cause anxiety, nervousness and irritability, making it difficult to get along with people.
* Stress can affect your concentration, making you perform poorly at school or on the job.
* Stress can cause weight gain or weight loss.
* Stress seems to weaken the immune system, making you more vulnerable to colds and other diseases, possibly even some types of cancer.
* Stress can spur you to abandon healthy habits, such as exercising and eating well, which may in turn create other health problems.
* Stress may not actually cause digestive problems, but it can be a contributing factor that makes them worse.
* Stress is also an important contributing factor in many conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, headaches, arthritis and even menstrual disorders.
These are concrete physical effects of stress, but they may be caused by stress that is either real or perceived. What that means is that people sometimes create unnecessary stress for themselves by worrying and fretting more than they should.
Stress Tips for Children
* Talk that stress out! Discuss your worries and concerns with somebody you trust. Don't keep it all bottled up inside.
* Play sports. Exercise releases natural chemicals in your body called endorphins that actually make you feel good.
* Read the comics or watch a funny TV show or movie.
* Go for a walk. Pay attention to what you see.
* Plan a party with friends.
* Make a list of five things you can do well and five things you really like about yourself.
* Write down your goals for next week, next month, or next summer. Write down three things you can do that will help you reach each of your future plans.
* Try something new. This can be simple, such as reading a type of book that is different from your usual choice or rearranging your desk. Or, you can really go for the gold and sign up for a new club or sport at school. Taking on a new challenge can make you feel great!
* Release your creativity. Write in a journal. Make up a song. Create a dance. Do some crafts.
* One of the best ways to deal with stress is by helping somebody else. Take care of a neighbor's garden, volunteer at a nursing home, or help out at an abandoned animal shelter.
* Laugh at yourself. It's hard to do, but it will release your tension and improve your outlook.
* Relax! Make some time for yourself to just kick back and rest.
Other Tips for Reducing or Controlling Stress
National Mental Health Association
As you read the following suggestions, remember that success will not come from a half hearted effort, nor will it come overnight. It will take determination, persistence and time. Some suggestions may help immediately, but if your stress is chronic, it may require more attention and/or lifestyle changes. Determine YOUR tolerance level for stress and try to live within these limits. Learn to accept or change stressful and tense situations whenever possible.
If you feel overwhelmed by some activities (yours and/or your family's), learn to say NO! Eliminate an activity that is not absolutely necessary. You may be taking on more responsibility than you can or should handle. If you meet resistance, give reasons why you're making the changes. Be willing to listen to other's suggestions and be ready to compromise.
Shed the "superman/superwoman" urge.
No one is perfect, so don't expect perfection from yourself or others. Ask yourself, "What really needs to be done?" How much can I do? Is the deadline realistic? What adjustments can I make?" Don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
Just ten to twenty minutes of quiet reflection may bring relief from chronic stress as well as increase your tolerance to it. Use the time to listen to music, relax and try to think of pleasant things or nothing.
Use your imagination and picture how you can manage a stressful situation more successfully. Whether it's a business presentation or moving to a new place, many people feel visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and enable them to take a more positive approach to a difficult task.
Take one thing at a time.
For people under tension or stress, an ordinary workload can sometimes seem unbearable. The best way to cope with this feeling of being overwhelmed is to take one task at a time. Pick one urgent task and work on it. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. The positive feeling of "checking off" tasks is very satisfying. It will motivate you to keep going.
Regular exercise is a popular way to relieve stress. Twenty to thirty minutes of physical activity benefits both the body and the mind.
Take a break from your worries by doing something you enjoy. Whether it's gardening or painting, schedule time to indulge your interest.
Healthy life style.
Good nutrition makes a difference. Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol (alcohol actually disturbs regular sleep patterns), get adequate rest, exercise, and balance work and play.
Share your feelings.
A conversation with a friend lets you know that you are not the only one having a bad day, caring for a sick child or working in a busy office. Stay in touch with friends and family. Let them provide love, support and guidance. Don't try to cope alone.
Give in occasionally. Be flexible!
If you find you're meeting constant opposition in either your personal or professional life, rethink your position or strategy. Arguing only intensifies stressful feelings. If you know you are right, stand your ground, but do so calmly and rationally. Make allowances for other's opinions and be prepared to compromise. If you are willing to give in, others may meet you halfway. Not only will you reduce your stress, you may find better solutions to your problems.
Go easy with criticism.
You may expect too much of yourself and others. Try not to feel frustrated, let down, disappointed or even "trapped" when another person does not measure up. The "other person" may be a wife, a husband, or child whom you are trying to change to suit yourself. Remember, everyone is unique, and has his or her own virtues, shortcomings, and right to develop as an individual.
Where to Get Help
Help may be as close as a friend or spouse. But if you think that you or someone you know may be under more stress than just dealing with a passing difficulty, it may be helpful to talk with your doctor, spiritual advisor, or employee assistance professional. They may suggest you visit with a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other qualified counselor.
For additional resources, please call 1-800-969-NMHA.
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.