Stress is a part of life but too much stress can cause problems. Stress is sometimes referred to as “pressure” or “tension” when you are faced with a new, unpleasant or threatening situation. It can affect your mental and physical health, damage relationships with family and friends. During my time in the hospital, I learned a lot about stress and how it impacts us.
Did you know that stress can contribute to muscle tension, often in the form of a stiff neck or sore back?
Know the warning signs.
Physical symptoms can include a change in appetite, back pain or breathlessness. It can also cause upset stomach, heartburn, rashes, heart disease or attacks, stroke, high
blood pressure, colds, migraines and irregular
Emotional symptoms include anger, anxiety, denial of a problem, depression, difficulty making decisions, forgetfulness, feeling powerless, rejected or unhappy for no reason. You may also get upset easily, worry frequently and feel worthless.
Behavioral symptoms that can occur are arguing with friends, family or partner, avoiding tasks and responsibilities, crying easily, decreased job performance and difficulty concentrating. In addition, one may increase the use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol, neglect appearance, overeat or under-eat, snap at people and withdraw from family and friends.
Do you have any of these symptoms in yourself?
Everyone’s stressors are different. What may be stressful to one person may not be stressful to someone else. Stress can be financial (e.g. growing debts, taxes, fixed income), daily hassles (e.g. child care, car trouble or oversleeping), environmental (e.g. crime, noise, traffic, etc.), health-related stress (e.g. being overweight, having a sleep disorder or illness), family stressors (e.g. divorce, death of a loved one, child having trouble in school), work-related stress (e.g. too much work, long commute, fear of being laid off or fired, etc.).
Keeping a journal can help you manage stress. It can help you see what causes you stress, how it affects you and an outlet for frustration. It can also be a decision-making tool that allows you to explore the pros and cons of choices, and a way to gain insight. Give journaling a try. Ask yourself, how did you respond to a stressful situation today? Did you do something to make you laugh? Are you facing any big decisions? Are you feeling anxious or frustrated?
In your journal you can also describe the situation, your initial reaction and a possible change. For example, the situation may be that bills are piling up and you don’t have enough money to pay for them all. You initially felt overwhelmed and stressed and was convinced that you’d never get out of debt. The possible change is that you explain your situation to the creditors and work out a payment plan within your budget.
Learn how you can stop contributing to your stress by reading tips on stress management.
This piece was originally was originally written and inspired by the self-care handbook on stress management.