There is no denying that stress is a part of life. Although you cannot eliminate stress completely, it is possible to reduce its impact on your life.
What is stress?
Stress is a physical and psychological response to a demand, threat or problem. It stimulates you and increases your level of awareness. The body's reaction to stress is called the "fight or flight" response. The response occurs whether the stress is positive or negative. Positive stress provides the means to express talents and abilities. But continual exposure to negative stress lowers the body's ability to cope in general.
Your signs of stress may be different from someone else's. Some people get angry. Others have trouble concentrating or making decisions. For some, stress may lead to health problems such as:
- Back pain
- Upset stomach and other digestive problems
- Heart problems
Serious situations such as the death of a loved one, major injury or illness and divorce, are examples of significant causes of stress. But, daily, ongoing stressors can also take a toll on your health. Balancing work and family life, financial and health concerns, relationship worries and generally trying to do it all every day can really add up.
Coping with stress
When we recognize that stress is building up, it’s time to take care of ourselves. The basics are crucial — eating well, being physically active and getting enough sleep. Try some relaxation techniques, too. Deep breathing and imagining a peaceful scene might help you unwind. Some people find yoga, meditation or tai chi helpful as well.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to cope with stress. Excess stress can seriously interfere with the ability to perform effectively. It can affect health, vitality and peace of mind, as well as personal and professional relationships. Ongoing stress may lead to issues such as depression, substance abuse or compulsive behaviors.
Don’t hesitate to talk with your doctor or seek help from a professional counselor if you:
- Feel unusually sad or cry a lot
- Are excessively anxious
- Can't concentrate
- Worry constantly
- Have trouble sleeping
- Feel tired all the time
- Find it difficult to do your job
- Have a hard time getting along with family and friends
- Are irritable or angry
- Drink more alcohol than usual
Some of these signs also might indicate depression. Depression is very treatable. And the earlier treatment starts, the more likely it is to be effective. If you have any of these signs — lasting two weeks or longer — talk with your doctor. And if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, seek help immediately.
Check your benefit plan to see if an employee assistance plan may be available to you, and what services may be covered.