Would you agree that many to most of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in both adults and children? Stress is actually a normal part of life. At times, it serves a useful purpose. But if you don’t get a handle on your stress and it becomes long-term, it can seriously interfere with your job, family life, and health. WebMD reports more than half of Americans say they fight with friends and loved ones because of stress, and more than 70% say they experience real physical and emotional symptoms from it.
Everyone has different stress triggers. Work stress tops the list, according to surveys. Forty percent of U.S. workers admit to experiencing office stress, and one-quarter say work is the biggest source of stress in their lives. Causes of work stress include: being unhappy in your job; having a heavy workload or too much responsibility; working long hours having poor management, unclear expectations of your work, or no say in the decision-making process; working under dangerous conditions; being insecure about your chance for advancement or risk of termination; having to give speeches in front of colleague; facing discrimination or harassment at work, especially if your company isn’t supportive.
Life stresses also can have a big impact. Examples of life stresses are the death of a loved one; divorce; loss of a job; increase in financial obligations; getting married; moving to a new home; chronic illness or injury; emotional problems (depression, anxiety, anger, grief, guilt, low self-esteem); taking care of an elderly or sick family member; traumatic event.
Sometimes the stress comes from inside, rather than outside. You can stress yourself out just by worrying about things. All of these factors can lead to stress: fear and uncertainty; attitudes and perceptions; unrealistic expectations; change.
Stress symptoms may be physical or emotional. Common reactions to a stressful event can include:
2. Feelings of fear, shock, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
3. Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
4. Difficulty sleeping or nightmares, concentrating, and making decisions
5. Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
6. Worsening of chronic health problems
7. Worsening of mental health conditions
8. Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
Learning healthy ways to cope and getting the right care and support can help reduce stressful feelings and symptoms. Below are ways that you can help yourself and others manage stress.
1. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed but hearing about the traumatic event constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from phone, TV, and computer screens for a while.
2. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
3. Take care of your body.
4. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
5. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
6. Exercise regularly.
7. Get plenty of sleep.
8. Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
9. Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider.
10. Talk to others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor.
11. Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.
12. Avoid drugs and alcohol. These may seem to help, but they can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
13. Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker or professional counselor.
Remember — It’s OK not to be OK. Help can be found by texting 4HOPE to 74174 (the Crisis Text Line, which is a free 24/7 service for those in crisis) or by visiting https://www.apa.org/topics/crisis-hotlines.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control; WebMD
Courtney C. Midkiff, BSC, is Administrator for the Meigs County Health Department.