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Brockport / Counseling Center / Mental Health / Stress and Stress Management

Stress and Stress Management

What happens when you are stressed?

[Taken from WebMD]

Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response. Some stress is normal and even useful. Stress can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. For example, it can help you win a race or finish an important job on time. But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad effects. It can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school. The question of the day is, "How do I manage my stress?" The answer is, "learn about your own stress indicators," and "learn how to manage stress."  The information below will help you to do both.

Stress Symptoms

  • TENSE MUSCLES, SORE NECK, SHOULDERS, & BACK
  • A person under stress may be so tense that they experience muscle cramps. Tight neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles may lead to headache. Other tight muscles may cause backache.

  • INSOMNIA
  • Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or early waking. Tense muscles, increased heart and breathing rate brought on by stress can cause insomnia.

  • FATIGUE
  • This is a symptom of stress unless the fatigue is brought on by physical exertion

  • BOREDOM, DEPRESSION, LISTLESSNESS
  • A person who is constantly in any of these states and does not "snap out of it" is under stress, which saps them of their energy.

  • DRINKING TOO MUCH
  • Drinking to escape problems creates more problems. Danger signals are: needing a drink, drinking every day or at a set hour, drinking from the bottle, drinking first thing in the morning, blacking out.

  • EATING TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE
  • Compulsive eating can put added strain on the heart, kidneys, and arteries, and can create self-disgust (a major stressor). Eating too little can signify withdrawal and depression.

  • DIARRHEA, CRAMPS, GAS, CONSTIPATION
  • Symptoms of digestive distress can come from spoiled food or viral infection, but persistent trouble can indicate stress. The blood is drawn away from the digestive system.

  • PALPITATIONS--HEART SKIP
  • The stress alarm increases the rate of heartbeat, causing a feeling of palpitations or heart skip. This can result in a destructive cycle of fear--stress alarm--palpitations--fear of palpitations--alarm.

  • PHOBIAS
  • Unfound fears, such as fear of enclosed places, heights, etc. could be a sign of stress caused by hidden emotional conflicts.

  • TICS, RESTLESSNESS, ITCHING
  • WORRY about the symptoms.
  • Self-Criticism
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Preoccupation with the future
  • Repetitive thoughts
  • Rigid Thinking
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Decreased concentration
  • Unrealistic expectations

Stress-Time Management

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Despite Einstein’s contention, it sometimes feels as if everything is happening at once.  The time management presentation will show how time management can cause stress and how to arrange your time to reduce that stress.

Below are a number of different stress busters that can be done in less than 5 minutes

As you might guess, this is a list of “quickie” stress coping techniques that are quick efficient [i.e., they will not contribute to your procrastination tendencies; sorry], and will help you take care various manifestations of stress. Check em’ out and see what you think!

  • Concentrate on your breathing. Inhale for 5 seconds and then slowly exhale for 5 seconds. Concentrate only on your breathing in this manner for 2 minutes. Once you get used to breathing in this way, use this method along with the others below.
  • Roll your head slowly around. Shrug your shoulders as high up toward your ears as you can and then slowly relax your shoulders. Repeat 5 times.
  • Use aromatherapy on the go. Dab a tissue with calming scents, such as lavender or chamomile and keep it with you. Take it out while completing the breathing exercise in #1 for an even more relaxing exercise.
  • Look around and choose one item to concentrate on. It could be a flower or a painting or something you keep with you, such as a seashell. Take a few minutes to concentrate on it and the calming feelings it brings. For example, a seashell could remind you of sitting on a beach with a cool breeze and the sound of the ocean.
  • If you do not have anything to concentrate on, close your eyes and visualize yourself in peaceful surroundings, such as the beach or on a picnic in the woods.
  • Keep a journal of funny stories with you, ones that will make you laugh out loud. These can be stories that have happened to you, funny things your children have said or a joke book you find funny. Read it over when you are feeling stressed. Laughter can release a great deal of tension.
  • Starting with your feet, tense and relax your muscles. Work your way up to your legs, abdomen, arms, etc. Work on one part of your body at a time and notice how you feel tensed and relaxed.
  • Concentrate on keeping your body in a relaxed state for a few minutes. If you have some room to move around, do some stretching exercises making sure you stretch all parts of your body.
  • Find a few songs you like and that help you unwind. Get the CDs if you need to, otherwise, sing the songs (even singing in your head can help). Use different songs for different types of stress or make up silly words to songs to fit your circumstances.
  • Find a "venting" partner. Call them when you find yourself in a terribly stressful situation and let them know you are venting, you don't need someone to solve your problem or criticize, you just need to vent about your current situation. Once you are done venting, thank them for listening.
  • Take a walk outside. Fresh air is a wonderful de-stressor. Take a few minutes to breathe in the fresh air. (Use breathing method from #1).
  • Give your brain a break. Try something that doesn't require thinking too hard [e.g., listening to music, thinking about your evening, turn your face to sun, etc.]. Taking a few minutes to concentrate on something else will allow your mind to stop thinking about the problem at hand. Even a few minutes doing something else might help you view a problem in a new light.

Meditate. Using the breathing from #1, concentrate on one thing or repeat a phrase over and over. This is difficult to accomplish at first, but with practice, you will be able to empty your mind for a couple minutes and feel refreshed and be ready to start again.

Top Ten Strategies for Wildly Effective Stress Management

[from the University of North Carolina Counseling Center]:

  • Organize Yourself.
  • Take better control of the way you're spending your time and energy so you can handle stress more effectively.

  • Control Your Environment.
  • Control who and what is surrounding you. In this way, you can either get rid of stress or get support for yourself.

  • Love Yourself.
  • >Give yourself positive feedback. Remember, you are a unique individual who is doing the best you can.

  • Reward Yourself.
  • Plan leisure activities into your life. It really helps to have something to look forward to.

  • Exercise Your Body.
  • Since your health and productivity depend upon your body's ability to bring oxygen and food to its cells. Therefore, exercise your heart and lungs regularly, a minimum of three days per week for 15-30 minutes. This includes such activities as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, and so forth.

  • Relax Yourself.
  • Take your mind off your stress and concentrating on breathing and positive thoughts. Dreaming counts, along with meditation, progressive relaxation, exercise, listening to relaxing music, communicating with friends and loved ones, and so forth.

  • Rest Yourself
  • Sleep as regularly as possible and try to get 7-8 hours a night. Take study breaks. There is only so much your mind can absorb at one time. It needs time to process and integrate information. A general rule of thumb: take a ten minute break every hour. Rest your eyes as well as your mind.

  • Be Aware of Yourself.
  • Be aware of distress signals such as insomnia, headaches, anxiety, upset stomach, lack of concentration, colds/flu, excessive tiredness, etc. Remember, these can be signs of potentially more serious disorders (i.e., ulcers, hypertension, heart disease).

  • Feed Yourself / Do Not Poison Your Body.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Avoid high calorie foods that are high in fats and sugar. Don't depend on drugs and/or alcohol. Caffeine will keep you awake, but it also makes it harder for some to concentrate. Remember, a twenty minute walk has been proven to be a better tranquilizer than some prescription drugs.

  • Enjoy Yourself.
  • It has been shown that happier people tend to live longer, have less physical problems, and are more productive. Look for the humor in life when things don't make sense. Remember, you are very special and deserve only the best treatment from yourself.

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Last Updated 10/26/10

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