Stress Management Tools

Stress and Health: How Chronic Stress Affects Your Future Health

“Stress is the trash of modern life – we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life”–Danzae Pace

Each day you experience some level of stress. Worrying can be a daily habit. Your mind is at work constantly, spinning about problems that have happened and what is yet to come. In fact, anxiety never seems like it lets up. Neck and back tension, the knot that stays in your stomach and jittery agitation just lives under the surface of your skin. You begin to think that worrying is a normal everyday part of life. The truth is that the effects of chronic stress have begun.

When you worry, chemicals are released in your body that send you into a flight or fight alert. It’s like turning on a switch to tell your body that something is wrong or that you are in danger. What happens if the switch to stress stays on? Once you think that anxiety and worry are part of your life, you forget that relaxation, or “rest and digest” mode is even and option.

When you worry, you borrow against your future health and well being.

A recent study from Penn State University has linked stress to future health risks. The study reports it’s not the stressors, or things that make you worry that cause health issues. It’s your response to stress that determines if you will suffer future health effects.

According to David Almeda, professor of human development and family studies, how you react to what happens today can foretell chronic health issues and ten year from now, aside from your current health and stress yet to come.

“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens. And the response is something we can choose” ~Maureen Killoran

When you are in a heightened state of stress, it’s truly hard to see all options in how to handle the problem. It’s far more natural in an anxious state to become victim to a flight or fight response. You forget that you have a choice in how you respond to stress.

The bottom line is learning how to manage stress more effectively.

It can seem totally overwhelming to make one more change in your life. You carefully have all the pieces in place for your life to work. One piece out of place and you will lose control…or at least that’s what you might believe.

 There are a few steps to get started in changing how you respond to stress.

1.    Pick three times a day that you take time to relax. Start with 15 minutes at a time. Be very conscious that the time is for you to recharge. Pick something that will clear you mind, such as a short walk, writing in a journal, deep breathing, or reading. Short relaxation techniques will work, too. This will help you remember what it is like to stop the stress response in your body.

2.    Breathe. The stress response causes us to breathe quick and shallow. Try deep belly breathing to reduce tension and get more oxygen in your body. Place your hand on your belly and feel it expand with the rise and fall of each breath. Breath in relief and exhale stress.

3.    List five things you are grateful for when caught up in the stress response. When you are stressed, you are living in the past and/or the future. Gratitude lists put us back into the present moment. The beauty is that the present moment is a worry-free space.

How you handle stress with catch up to you and your health. Begin to make choices today the will affect your future health.

Work Strategies to Reduce Stress Now

"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important." –Bertrand Russell
Stress can bear down on you at work every day. Memos come out with staffing changes. You open up your work emails wondering what policy or insurance adjustments you need to make. Fear rises in your gut as you wonder how you and your family are going to get by. Office gossip is at an all time high as the rumor mill churns. When you wake up each morning with a knot in your stomach, how do you better deal with a stressful work environment?

There are some major sources of anxiety in the workplace but you can put strategies in place to relieve work stress. Most of them are easy enough you can start now and begin seeing results immediately.

Schedule Overload

The first step should be to examine your schedule if you're feeling overwhelmed by your workload. Maybe you can change your routine or rearrange your schedule so you have more time in the day to get the job done. Perhaps there are some tasks you can let go of or spend less time on. You can also try to delegate the work to others in your office. If you're still feeling snowed under, talk with your boss. Communication can be the key to finding a way to lighten your load.

Co-Worker Stress

There are always going to be difficult co-workers at every job.  It's something you'll most likely face no matter where you work. Even if there's someone who is just a pain to deal with for one reason or another, you don't have to let it stress you out.

If you have a co-worker that's continually trying to get under your skin, confront the issue. You may want to do this with your boss present as to avoid any chance the difficult co-worker can turn on you or say things that didn't really happen. Document the situation to the best of your abilities. When you are under stress you make think that you will remember facts. Chances are details can be lost.

Explore your options if the frustration and stress gets too high. Maybe there’s an option for a department transfer. Human resources department can also be a support for you when the situation gets unbearable.

Demanding Boss

What can do you do when your boss is demanding? You can try talking to them in a peaceful, non-confrontational tone. Write your thoughts ahead of time and get clear about the issues. This will not only reduce your stress but help you state your case and stay on topic. Stick to the issues and the issues only. Never place blame or come across as if you know better than your boss. This kind of talk could only lead to a worse situation.

Looking at Your Future

One of the biggest causes of workplace stress is fear of job loss. Even if you've done everything to ensure your position at your company, like increasing your value as an employee, there are still no guarantees of job security

So, what can you do to help relieve some of the stress and fear?

One thing you can do is prepare for the future. Perhaps you could start taking classes at your local community college to learn a new skill or trade.

You could also start building an online business. Even though the economy is struggling, online businesses are growing every day. There are many ways you can begin securing your future now. All it takes is a little research and planning. Fine your local small business builder group in your area for resources.

Release Your Frustration

A great way to relieve work related stress is to work out regularly. Getting regular exercise helps relieve stress, especially work related stress. If you don't belong to a gym, begin working out at home. Going a quick walk regularly also reduces stress. Many people take short walks on their lunch break to let go of anxiety.

Incorporate any of these strategies into your day to help you overcome workplace stress.


When Stress Turns into Depression

“There's nothing, repeat, nothing to be ashamed of when you're going through a depression. If you get help, the chances of your licking it are really good. But, you have to get yourself onto a safe path.”—Mike Wallace

Constant stress for a long period of time breaks down your ability to cope with even the simplest of problems. Family issues, job loss and money problems can just wear you down over time. One thing is certain: depression is a debilitating illness that can leave you feeling hopeless.

Sometimes depression is described it as a sense of despair that swallows you whole. There just doesn’t seem to be a break from the pain from this illness. Many people try to self-medicate with alcohol, drugs or other substances just to feel better for the moment. The sad part is that depression is still around the next day and the depression most likely is worse.

Depression seems like it takes everything away from you; it robs your energy, focus, concentration, and especially your happiness. You just don't care about anything; nothing matters and even the people you love become unimportant.

I worked with so many people with depression on the psychiatric unit. Kate, a middle-aged woman was admitted with severe depression. “I feel like I have lost myself. I don’t even know who I am anymore.” Kate went on to talk about how she couldn’t connect with her husband anymore. She slowly began to isolate herself and stopped leaving her home.”Nobody understands me or the depression.” Kate truly believed she was a bad person and somewhere lost her worth as a person. “How could anyone love me?” she said.

As we worked together in occupational therapy, Kate talked about a time in her life that she idealized.” When I was skinny years ago, I felt like people loved me more. I just want to get that back.” She went on to say how she used food, alcohol and drugs to get that feeling back from years gone by.
Physical Issues with Depression

Depression doesn't only take its toll on your emotions and mental state; it can cause physical problems as well. Depression may cause you to either lose your appetite or eat for comfort. It also zaps your energy and motivation.

In addition, depression can lead to:

1. Lack of sleep. A symptom of depression is problems with your ability to sleep. Trouble getting and staying asleep can interfere with day to day functioning.

2. Problems with appetite. When depressed, you can lose your appetite or seek out eating too much to make you feel better.

3. Aches and pains. When you're depressed, the chemicals in the brain that signal pain are as affected as the chemicals in your brain that help you feel happy. Physical aches and pains are increased, which in turn, kicks in the sad feelings and the cycle begins again.

4. Hygiene problems. Someone suffering from depression doesn't have the energy or the motivation to be concerned with self-care, like showering or getting dressed.

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

These are some specific things those with depression experience:

• Constant sadness about everything
• Hopelessness
• Insomnia or trouble sleeping
• Irritability
• Trouble concentrating
• Loss of interest in things that once interested them
• Feeling worthless, useless and strangely guilty for no reason at all
• Serious change in weight, one way or the other
• Lack of energy and fatigue

As depression progresses, it feeds on itself like a snowball rolling downhill. The longer someone is depressed, the worse the depression gets until they see no way out of it at all. They become resigned to being miserable all the time. Feeling misunderstood is common, where the depressed person thinks that others couldn’t possibly get what they are going through.

If you know someone who is depressed, the best thing you can do is be a friend. Talk to your friend and just be there for support. Encourage counseling or professional help.

If you think you may be depressed and it’s beyond stress, talk to your health care provider. Depression doesn't have to consume your life. Help is available.


Strategies to Reduce the Stress of Moving

When you think about moving you might feel your stomach begin to knot up. Moving is often a big ordeal, but you can take steps to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. You can ease your way into the best move possible with some good planning and backup solutions,

Even if you're planning a big move with a large family, you can make it work just as long as you refuse to get stuck on the hold ups along the way.

Try these strategies to reduce stress while you move:

1. Give yourself plenty of time. Plan your move as much as possible in advance. A gradual change is usually better than waiting until the last minute. This eases the pressure of the time crunch and provides you with a cushion in case things don't go according to plan. Instead of stressing out, you can use the extra time to come up with a back up plan.

2. Prepare children and family members. Moving can be difficult on children unless you properly prepare them for what lies ahead. Include your children in the decision-making process when it’s appropriate. Explain to them where you'll be moving and tell them what will stay the same and what will change. Limit too many details at once.

Remind them that they can still connect with their friends, even if you're moving far away. In this day and age, with technology like video chat, and more, keeping up with old friends is super easy.

3. Have a master checklist in place. A checklist will help you remember the tasks that need to get done. It's easy to let something important slide while moving, because you'll be juggling tons of task at once. A checklist will get worries off of your mind reducing your stress level a great deal. If not, your mind will run non-stop with worries.

4. Verify service set-up. When the moving date arrives, it's best to check in with everyone that will be involved. It will give you peace of mind. Have family members and friends agreed to help you move? Double check that they are still helping you. Also, heck and confirm the dates and times with the moving companies or storage unit facilities.

5. Pack you things properly. Protect yourself from the extra stress of finding out that something important of yours broke during the moving process. Ensure you have plenty of time to handle breakables and special items with care.

6. Take breaks. If you are constantly running around to complete all of your tasks, you'll wear yourself out and increase your stress. Schedule enough time for breaks. Breaks renew your physical and mental get-up-and-go, making every task run more efficiently.

7. Keep a positive attitude. Moving can cause feelings of anxiety and worry if you allow the process to overwhelm you. Focus on one task at a time, and on solutions instead of problems. A positive attitude will not only reduce your stress but will help get you through a bumpy time.
Moving stress occurs because your life is changing in a big way. Keep moving forward and think about all the new opportunities that await you at your new home- and life!

Dealing with Fear: Do You Trust Your Choices?

Nothing in life is to be feared.  It is only to be understood.  ~Marie Curie

Trusting your intuition is an important skill to learn, although there are times when your mind can become confused about your next step. When your body and mind are under a great deal of stress, it may be hard to see the best opportunities for you.

Dealing With Fear

No one enjoys coping with fear; however, it's a necessary part of life. The best line of defense is to practice remaining calm and ask for help when you need it. After all, two minds striving for a rational solution is usually better than one.

When to Think Twice

Even in tough circumstances, you probably have a gut feeling about what is truly right or wrong. However, it's a good idea to try to recognize the situations where you tend to have problems thinking clearly. That way, when these situations do come up, you can start working on solutions, instead of giving into the cloudy, confused thoughts.

Situations you might ask for help are:

1.    When you're under high stress – People often don't recognize how harmful stress can be to the mind and body. Stress can cause you to make impulsive decisions. The main goal when you are stressed is to not be stressed as fast as possible. Remember, stress produces hormones that alter your thinking patterns and slip into survival mode..

2.    When you're feeling anxious – There are different degrees of anxiety that can affect anyone at any time. When anxiety takes over, such as when you're dealing with a big fear, it can lead to irrational thoughts or even panic. It’s impossible to think clearly knee-deep in panic.

3.    When you're mind sees the glass half empty – Sometimes you'll have a bad day or even a bad week. Having a tough time can cause a negative thinking pattern that can cause you to think unreasonable thoughts.

When you're having thoughts that seem real, but are rather unreasonable, remember that it's not coming from you. Rather, it's coming from the build up self-doubt, negativity, stress, anxiety, or even past circumstances.

Dealing With Anxiety

You now know that negative thought patterns can arise from stress, anxiety, fear or even the past. But it's how you deal with shifting your thought patterns that make all the difference. Take time to cool down and relax your mind before making important decisions.

One way to know if something is your true feeling is to wait a few days before making a decision. For example, if after a week of thinking something over, you still think the same way, then it's probably true. Of course, you first have to ensure that your mind isn't under attack from stress, fear, anxiety or negativity.

Healing From Your Fear

If you find that you live in fear a great deal of time, you can concentrate on healing those feelings. When your mind begins to race and filled with what if’s, breathe deeply. Believe it or not, deep breathing is a signal for your mind to relax and think clearly. So breathe deeply and clear your mind.

Also remember that you're not alone. You have people who can help you and you shouldn't feel hesitant to ask for that help. If you feel uncomfortable talking with a family member or friend, consider the help of a coach or counselor.

Just remember to avoid taking drastic actions during a stressful time. There’s no rush when making decisions. Breathe deeply, and find the support you need to deal with the fear.

Ten Practical Stress Relief Tips

“Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.”—Marilu Henner

Stress has a way of sneaking up on you when any situation is put off. Procrastination is one surefire way of causing more problems in the end. Stress-induced problems swirl around us all the time and it often feels like the pressure never ends. Yet, there are simple ways to relieve stress naturally.

Here are 10 practical steps to a less stressed life:

1. Cut out the busyness. What are some things you can cut out of your schedule to give you more quality time for you and your family? Consider the following places where your time is spent:

• Clubs
• Organizations
• Meetings

Carefully consider which programs and activities you can remove from your schedule So many times you can add on activities without examining what other obligations you have scheduled.

2. De-clutter and organize your home. When your home is cluttered and unorganized, you tend to feel cluttered and unorganized on the inside, causing you more stress. Get rid of things you never use by selling it, throwing it away, or giving it to someone needs it. Once you've done that, organize what's left over and make a place for everything. If necessary, use labels and organizational containers to make it easy to find things again. It will take less time to keep it that way than to reorganize your home again.

3. De-clutter and organize your workspace. One of the major stressors is money. Organizing your workspace is no different than de-cluttering your home. Remember, your outside environment affects your internal peace. Cluttered on the outside likely means cluttered on the inside.

4. Money stress. Make sure you have a budget. Most people don't like the word budget, but budgeting doesn't have to be hard. In fact, financial planning actually helps you save money. Search online to find a budgeting system that works best for you. It needs to be simple and easy to use every day. Once you're on a budget you'll feel a lot less stressed due to money. Another option is to find an experienced financial planner or money coach who can steer you on the right financial path.

5. Enjoy what you do have. When you learn to be happy with what you have right now, you'll find much more peace within yourself. Gratitude is the key.

6. Exercise. When you workout, your body burns off more than just fat and calories. Working out also burns off your stress. If you're stressed due to work situations or family conflict, getting a good workout will help you relieve stress.  You'll be able to think and reason more clearly, which will help you deal with some of the real issues that are causing your stress.

7. Eat healthier. Eating healthy foods really does relieve stress because when your body is nourished properly, it functions at its best. Eating right lends itself to clearer thinking and more energy.

8. Reduce your workload. If you have a heavy workload, either on the job or at home, do what you can to reduce it. Take a good look at your routine and determine if the workload is really worth the toll it's taking on your body and health. If it's not – and there's no end in sight – perhaps it's not the proper solution to your problems anyway.

9. Communication. If you have a friend you can talk to, openly and honestly, seek them out. Getting things off your chest will help you sort out problems and see your situation in a new light. The less foggy your mind is, the more stress you'll be able to remove from your life. It often helps to have someone outside of the situation to talk to because they'll likely see something you don't.

10. Get a Journal. You can have an outlet without having to reveal your deep thoughts to the world. Using a journal to write out your feelings and stressful situations. Oftentimes you can see what is happening and deal with a situation head on.

There are so many ways to deal with stress naturally. Try these tips now and you'll soon begin to see a real difference in your life. Your stress will start to melt away and you'll be free to enjoy your life.


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