Stress can be a difficult thing to pin down because it is a very individual thing. Whether stress is real or imagined – our brains take over and respond. Stress can come in many forms; work demands, relationship/family problems, financial concerns, health concerns, etc. The physiological response to all stress, regardless of the source, is the same.
According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 77 percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. These physical symptoms include but are not limited to the following:
Loss of appetite
Emotional symptoms of stress include but are not limited to:
Behavioral symptoms of stress include but are not limited to:
Increased alcohol/drug/tobacco use
Typically, we interpret stress as a negative thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. “Eustress” means stress with a positive effect. How can stress be positive? Think of the emotions caused by the following events: getting a promotion, having a baby, riding a rollercoaster, or watching a scary movie. In these situations, the physical, mental, or emotional strain actually produces positive emotions rather than the negative emotions usually associated with stress.
There are essentially three main ways to approach stress. 1) Altering the situation, 2) Avoiding the situation, 3) Accepting the situation. Within these three approaches there are multiple techniques that can be used for each.
You can alter a situation by altering your approach. Altering the situation is one of the most effective steps you can take toward managing your stress. By taking control, you are putting the power back in your hands. You can avoid a situation by identifying and removing stressful situations and items from your life. You can accept the situation can help you deal with those things in life that just need to be done although they may be unpleasant.
With all of the choices to approach dealing with stress, there will be appropriate situations and inappropriate situations for each. Regardless of which approach you choose for any particular stressful situation, there needs to be a foundation of a positive, low-stress lifestyle. This foundation is made up of three building blocks: diet, sleep, and exercise. Stress management, or stress reduction, will only be successful in the long term if you have the solid foundation of these three elements.
If you need help in developing specific strategies to decrease the stress in your life, work with a trained therapist to create an individualized plan.