When stress never seems to go away, health can suffer.
Not all stress is bad. The stress response -- also known as the fight-or-flight response -- occurs automatically and rapidly when a person feels threatened. The physical response may include increased strength and agility, quicker reaction times and increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Historically, this response has been important for human survival. But today’s stressors, such as jobs, relationships or finances, tend to be prolonged, and they pile up. The result can be a fight-or-flight response that runs far too long, and can cause ill health effects such as digestive difficulties that range from stomachaches to diarrhea, anxiety, irritability, insomnia and depression.
Here are tips to help reduce the negative effects of stress:
Identify the causes:
- Are they external, such as job difficulties or family problems, or internal, such as perfectionist tendencies?
Concentrate on dealing with stressors that can be changed:
- For example, a diagnosis of diabetes can’t be changed, but a patient can change how she manages the condition.
Limit needless daily stressors:
- Plan the day, leaving plenty of time between activities. Learn to say no to commitments you’re not up to.
Change the pace:
- Break the routine.
- Take time each day to relax and do something enjoyable, such as pleasure reading, gardening, interacting with a pet or walking with a friend.
- Take a mini-vacation from the usual routine.
Recognize signs of stress:
- Some people experience neck or back pain when they are stressed.
- Others become more forgetful.
Whatever the early signs, learn to pay attention so you can interrupt the stress cycle and change what you can control.
For stressors beyond your control -- such as the death of a loved one -- it may help to recognize the stressful situation for what it is and try to accept it. Avoid letting the situation and thoughts about it become all consuming. Seeking diversions can help you keep a healthy perspective.
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