When life has put more on our plates than we can handle, how do we cope with the stress?
Generally, stress occurs when we feel overwhelmed by day-to-day responsibilities. Fearing we can’t cope, not only with ordinary demands, but with the crises that come our way as well, we experience feelings of powerlessness, and loss of control.
Physically, heart rates and respiration speed up, giving us quick bursts of energy. Known as the “flight or fight” response, this can be beneficial with deadlines, dangerous situations, or acute crises, where it is essential we act quickly.
When stressors become chronic though, this reactive state harms us physically, emotionally, behaviorally and mentally. We may experience headaches, back pain or insomnia. We may become agitated, bored, hypercritical, forgetful, nervous, lonely or upset. These feelings can lead to compulsive behavior – such as excessive eating, drinking or smoking – and create situations where we are unable to make decisions or get things done.
Chronic stress worsens existing health problems. Weakening the immune system, it makes us more susceptible to disease and slower to recover from illness or injury. It undermines our relationships with family, friends and co-workers as well.
On the positive side, stress can make us look at our lives and the things we need to change.
A first step is to identify its causes. Common stressors include changes in work or personal life, conflicts with family or co-workers, financial difficulties, and health problems. Lack of personal, quiet time, a missing sense of purpose, unfulfilling work, and the need for creative expression also act as major life stressors.
Healthy ways to manage stress and prevent it from becoming a chronic condition involve changing our perceptions about situations, practicing positive self-talk, evaluating obligations and goals to see what we can let go or what we can delegate, getting out of debt, choosing nutritious foods, exercising, resting, and obtaining professional help.
The daily practice of simple, focused relaxation techniques is a key way to manage stress. When stress is managed well, pain and anxiety are reduced, and you gain a sense of inner control to deal with the inevitable factors that are out of your control.
To obtain more information on relaxation techniques and stress management strategies, visit St. Peter’s Complementary Therapy website at http://www.sphp.com/integrative-medicine-sph. And for tips on preparing for surgery and healing post-surgery, visit https://healfaster.com/.