Association News

Taming Stress

Sep 11, 2015
What is Stress?
Stress is the way that we respond to change in our lives.  It is the way our bodies react physically, emotionally, cognitively, or behaviorally to any change in the status quo.  These changes do not have to be only negative things; positive change can also be stressful.  Even imagined change can cause stress.

Stress is highly individual.  A situation that one person may find stressful may not bother another person.  Stress occurs when something happens that we feel imposes a demand on us.  When we perceive that we cannot cope or feel inadequate to meet the demand we begin to feel stress.

Stress is not all bad.  We need a certain amount of stress in our lives because it is stimulating and motivating.  It gives us the energy to try harder and keeps us alert.  Stress actually begins in our brains and it is expressed in our body.  Once we perceive a stress our body sends our chemical messengers in the form of stress hormones to help our bodies handle the stress.

Chronic Stress:
Stress hormones are important to help us meet the demands of stress occasionally but if they are repeatedly triggered disease will occur.  It can seriously impact both your physical and emotional well-being.  Our body does signal us when we are experiencing the effects of chronic stress.  Listed below are some of the warning signals of too much stress (see if you have any, or all of these symptoms!).:

Physical Symptoms:  Tension, fatigue, insomnia, muscle aches, digestive upset, appetite change, headaches, restlessness

Mental Symptoms:  Forgetfulness, low productivity, confusion, poor concentration, lethargy, negativity, busy mind

Emotional Symptoms:  Anxiety, mood swings, irritability, depression, resentment, anger, impatience, worrying, feeling pressured

Social Symptoms:  Lashing out, decreased sex drive, lack of intimacy, isolation, intolerance, loneliness, avoiding social situations, alcohol, tobacco, and/or drug use

Spiritual Symptoms:  Apathy, loss of direction, emptiness, loss of life’s meaning, unforgiving, no sense of purpose

Some tips to manage too much stress:

Breathing
One way to counteract the stress response is to learn how to breathe deeply and slowly - the opposite of how we breathe under stress.  Deep breathing can relieve headaches, backaches, stomach aches, and sleeplessness. It allows blood pressure to return to normal and releases natural mood enhancers (endorphins) into the bloodstream. Use deep breathing anytime, anywhere. It's one of the best overall techniques for stress relief.

Relaxation
When you feel stressed, sit down, close your eyes, and give yourself calming mental suggestions such as: "I am relaxed and calm", "My hands are heavy and warm", "I am calm and peaceful".  At each place you feel tension (example, neck muscles), take a deep breath, and imagine tension "melting" away as you exhale. It may seem strange, but we talk to ourselves all the time - this technique just focuses on making those thoughts positive and relaxing.

Other Tips for Dealing with Stress

  • Recognize your unique symptoms of stress.
  • Look at your lifestyle and see what can be changed -- in your work situation, your family situation, or your schedule.
  • Use relaxation techniques - yoga, mediation, deep breathing, or massage
  • Exercise - Physical activity is one of the most effective stress remedies around!
  • Time management - Do essential tasks and prioritize the others.
  • Watch your diet - Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fats, and tobacco all put a strain on your body's ability to cope with stress. A diet with a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and foods high in protein but low in fat will help create optimum health.
  • Get enough rest and sleep.
  • Talk with others - Talk with friends, professional counselors, support groups, or family about what is bothering you.
  • Help others - Volunteer work can be an effective and satisfying stress reducer.
  • Get away for awhile - Read a book, watch a movie, play a game, listen to music, or go on vacation. Leave yourself some time that's just for you.
  • Work off your anger - Get physically active, dig in the garden, start a project, get your spring cleaning done.

If you would like further information on stress relief, or to speak with an EAP counselor, please contact your confidential Employee Assistance Program at 303-982-0377 or visit our website by CLICKING HERE.  Your EAP offers no-cost assistance to all Jeffco Schools employees, their family members over age 15, and retirees.  “Confidential help from caring professionals…”