Stress is epidemic, and science has already supported what millions have experienced for themselves under stress. Stress can make people sick, and it can kill. From hypertension to heart attacks, from frayed tempers to burn out, from fuzzy concentration to gnawing back-pain, stress can overload us physically, mentally and emotionally.
Stress is an inescapable part of life, but we don’t have to live helpless before it. There are definitely factors outside of our control when it comes to living with stress, so that just means we can focus on what we can do in order to help ourselves. No one can afford to be ignorant when it comes to self-care about dealing with their stress. When we take accountability at a personal level, we decide for ourselves what no one else can or will, and that action by itself is of great help in getting our strength back.
Knowledge is power, and we need to be more aware of what situations can contribute to stress, and how stress creeps up in and makes us ill. We can use that knowledge to prevent that from happening and be able to take care of our selves when it does.
Stress can come from feeling we have no control, comfort, or choice. By learning about stress, and applying that awareness to action, we take control and open up more choices for ourselves to address the cause and relieve the pressure, creating better situations for ourselves.
First off, can you recognize the signs of stress in your own life?
Stress doesn’t only manifest physically. Tension headaches, back-pain, indigestion, a racing heart…it can also show cognitively ( inability to concentrate, or having problems with recall), behaviorally (irritability, sleeping too much or not enough), and emotionally (anxiety, depression, feeling flat or zoned out), among many other signs.
- American institute of Stress (AIS) shares 50 common signs and symptoms of stress, with an additional diagram showing how it can affect the body’s various organs and systems.
- How Stressed Are You? A Checklist of Stress Warning Signs , from FAC Fall Creek Associates, shares the signs and symptoms of stress across 5 fields: physical, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, spiritual and relational symptoms.
Can you identify the major and minor causes of stress in your life?
We all have distinct areas in our life which can be places of refuge, or harbor our sources of stress. School, extra-curriculars, work, home, family, friends, etc.
Identifying and writing down the sources of stress is like shining light in dark corners — you get to see for yourself what’s really there, and then make a list of targets to eliminate. With a written account of what specific issues you need to address, you have a starting point for making a plan to fix the root causes for these issues.
Can you list down resources, people and groups you can ask for help?
One way stress can get you down is blocking the forefront of your thoughts with problems . You get so enmeshed with upsetting issues, you can’t think past the mental and emotional tangle to act on possible solutions, and you lose momentum (and hope) hacking away at the mess all by yourself.
Stress can often drive us into self-defeating behaviors. We can overindulge in food or alcohol as a form of self-soothing, or venture into self-medicating. Some people drive even deeper into work thinking that it would pay off at some point in the future. When you’re aware that a stressful situation triggers you into overindulging, you can take steps to make better choices.
Get to make your own self-care program.
It means exactly what it says. You create a program specifically tailored to your needs, with the aim of taking care of yourself. You dig deep and find ways on ensuring the following can happen when you need it:
- Soothe yourself when you’re upset.
- Calm yourself down when you’re riled up.
- Build yourself up when you feel smashed down.
- Recover from setbacks and be able to reassert your ability to make a difference.
- Recharge all your batteries: mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and relational.
- Reconnect: with what is important to you, with what makes you feel alive, and with the people who matter to you.
Here are some articles and websites which can help you on the way.
- How-To develop a Self care program (Reachout.com)
- Building A Self-care Plan (CAMH.ca)
- Self-care Starter Kit (University of Buffalo School of Social Work) with exercises and worksheets
- 3 Self-Care Strategies to Transform Your Life, Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. – Simple suggestions on what to focus on in making a program.
Knowledge is power. The ways things are going, we can’t afford to stay ignorant about what we can do to take better care of ourselves. With this small list of resources to start with, you can go on and take charge over things you can do to make it easier on yourself while doing the things you need to do. Good luck.
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