Stress Basics

What is Stress?

Definition:

a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.

Stress is tension or pressures that are a natural part of living our lives. Changes and events in our lives (getting married, illness, changing jobs) are a major source of stress. Pressures and tension from both good and bad changes can trigger our Stress Alarm System making us feel that we want to either fight the stress or run away from it.

How Do I Know If I'm Having a Stress Reaction?

Learning to read your mind and body language is a way to tell if you are under stress:

These are some of the ways your body/mind lets you know that you need to:

Undergoing several changes in a short period of time can lead to stress so severe that it can make you physically ill. These changes do not have to be major (eg. death of a loved one). Minor changes, even happy ones, can lead to illness if they occur within a short span of time. Be prepared for such periods by learning how to relieve stress.

What To Do If You Need Help

Stress is part of life but many times the number of stresses and types of stresses you have to deal with can feel overwhelming - that's a signal to get professional help.

Speak to your family doctor.

Speak to qualified professionals at your job.

Hospitals and Mental Health Centers have programs and specialists to help you learn to cope.

Health care professionals involved in preventive health care and trusted clergy members can also be a source of help.

Check for Stress Management and Relaxation programs being offered at work, community centers, and adult education programs.

The important point is to recognize that you are under stress and then to recognize that you need to find a way to deal effectively with it.

Getting help can put you back on course and reduce the negative effects that stress can have on you.

What to Do in a Crisis

You don't have to handle it alone. When confronted with a crisis or overwhelmed with stress, talk things out with friends and family and get professional help and advice when necessary. Hidden within each crisis is the opportunity for change, health and growth. Learn to face and cope with the obstacles and seize the opportunity a crisis provides.

Recognizing Stress in a Loved One

Many times a person cannot recognize when he or she is under stress. Friends and family members should be on the lookout for difficulty in sleeping, changes in eating habits, increased use of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, chronic irritability, short fused anger, increased anxiety and frequent illness or physical complaints.

QUICK TENSION RELIEVERS

Deep Breathing

Get in a comfortable position. To the count of 5 take a long, slow deep breath. Let your belly expand. As you exhale to the count of 5, imagine breathing out excess tension and breathing in relaxation. With each breath say to yourself, "Relax."

Stretches Your Body Will Love

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