Sidetrack Your Stress

By Floria, Barbara

If you’re like most Americans, you deal with stress on a daily basis. A recent survey done in 2007 by the American Psychological Association found that stress is a major issue in the US. For example,

  • One-third of Americans are living with extreme stress and almost half (48 percent) believe that their stress level has increased over the past five years

  • Money and work are the leading causes of stress for 75 percent of Americans. This is a dramatic increase over the 59 percent reporting stress in 2006.

  • Almost half of all Americans report that stress has had a negative effect on both their personal and professional lives.

  • Stress causes 54 percent of Americans to fight with people close to them.

  • Many people (up to 77 percent) report having physical symptoms and psychological symptoms related to stress in the last month.

Stress can come from good things (such as an upcoming wedding or a promotion) or bad things (out-of-control debt or legal problems, for instance). Either way, it can produce physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that can affect any part of the body.

Stress can cause many physical ailments, including serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer, as well as headaches, sleep disorders, backaches, fatigue, irritability, depression, anxiety, upset stomach, and high blood pressure, according to the American Institute of Stress.

Stress checkers

No one can avoid all stress—and a certain amount actually is good for you. It helps you react quickly and can be an effective motivator. But it’s best to keep unhealthy levels in check.

These strategies can help you reduce and manage your stressors:

  • Make a list of situations or issues that cause your stress. Becoming aware of your stressors can give you an idea of what causes you to tense up. Then you can try to avoid those situations or handle them differently in the future.

  • Exercise every day, if possible. Aerobic workouts—walking, cycling, swimming, or running—can help release pent-up frustrations while producing endorphins, brain chemicals that help counteract stress.

  • Learn how to relax. Deep-breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, visualization, or listening to relaxation tapes can help you decompress.

  • Get enough sleep. Stress can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. This may lead to fatigue and a reduced ability to cope.

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Using them to unwind only masks symptoms and can worsen stress.

  • Build loving relationships and supportive networks. The warmth of human connection to friends, neighbors, and coworkers is a great cure for stress.

  • Count your blessings. Keep a gratitude journal or set aside a few minutes every evening to reflect on the positive things in your life.

Seek support

You may not always be able to handle stress on your own. If you’re often depressed or you drink more alcohol than you should, you could be at the point where you need outside support—especially if your family life is affected by your behavior.

Talk with your health care provider first. You also can find support at hospitals or community colleges or from religious groups. Stress can be relieved, and you can get your life back on track.

Medical Reviewer: [Fincannon, Joy RN MN, Whorton, Donald, M.D.] Last Annual Review Date: 2008-05-05T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: Copyright Health Ink & Vitality Communications

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