Posted on Aug 25th, 2006

Stress is one way our bodies respond to changes in the environment and is a normal part of daily life. Stress can be caused by a variety of factors including home and work environments, finances, illness, relationship problems, neglecting your health, and having unrealistic expectations for yourself and others. Even positive or happy experiences can increase our stress levels. Stress isn’t just bothersome; up to 90% of illnesses are stress related. It is important to pay attention to our own stress responses and reduce stressors whenever possible.

Stress shows up in our bodies in a variety of ways.

Common physical signs of stress:

  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Tension in your muscles
  • Migraine headaches
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Pain in your back, neck or shoulders
  • Feeling tired
  • Stomach problems, cramping, heartburn, etc.
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Hair loss
  • Emotional signs of stress:

  • Feeling anxious
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased moodiness
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling depressed
  • Feeling angry
  • If you are feeling the effects of stress it is important to learn to manage your stress. Start by identifying the sources of your stress. Sometimes it is helpful to work with a friend or partner who might have a more objective view. When you have identified the events, situations, and people who make you feel stressed, then you can implement a variety of ways to reduce your stress.

    Here are some ideas for managing and reducing stress:

  • Reduce responsibilities
  • Learn to say “no”
  • Work toward having realistic expectations for yourself and others
  • Get regular exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid fast foods
  • Try relaxation exercises or meditation
  • Organize your time: leave earlier so you don’t feel rushed, schedule some extra time between appointments so that you have some flexibility
  • Try getting to bed a little earlier and getting up a little earlier
  • Keep “to do” lists and update them regularly
  • Talk with your friends and family about your efforts to get your stress under control
  • Cut back or eliminate these stressors: caffeine, alcohol, tobacco
  • Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Take mini-breaks during the day: step outside, read from a favorite book, enjoy a cup of tea
  • When stressful situations arise, take a minute to visualize how you will handle the situation
  • Pay attention to your self-talk – be sure you are saying encouraging things to yourself rather than putting yourself down
  • If your stress feels overwhelming, talk to your doctor or therapist for support
  • This list is just the beginning. As you pay attention to your stress levels and responses, you will discover many more ways to handle the stresses that come your way. The idea is not to feel trapped and helpless in the face of stress, but to become more flexible in handling life’s demands.

    © 2006 Cynthia McKenna LPC, NCC - All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

    Cynthia McKenna LPC, NCC is a therapist and life-coach who helps people transform their lives. Her goal is to help people have more joy and peace in daily living. Cynthia works with individuals, couples, and groups in the Texas Hill Country. She also works with clients online and by phone. For more information or to make an appointment, visit Cynthia McKenna’s website

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