Stress is a common, normal and even necessary part of life. But if normal stress is not managed well, or if stress becomes overwhelming, the effects can have serious implications for your health. Unmanaged, acute or chronic stress can result in symptoms such as difficulty sleeping and can lead to disorders such as anxiety and depression. Learning how stress affects you and how to recognize early warning signs of distress are important tools for preventing illness. We have gathered together some tips for dealing with four of the many facts of stress: stress, sleep difficulties, anxiety and depression.
Stress is the mental and/or physical tension that can result from adapting to any number of changes. Stress can result from a variety of things such as traffic, noise, deadlines, financial difficulties, family conflict, illness etc. Stress can be seen as a natural part of everyday life. But in the fast-paced society in which we live, excessive stress is all too common. Because too much stress can be harmful to us, it is important to be aware of the stress in our lives and learn to manage it effectively.
HELPFUL HINTS FOR DEALING WITH STRESS:
Take a break when you feel your stress level rising. A change of tack, a short walk, a few minutes of stretching or deep breathing can often help.
Allow yourself plenty of time to do things so that you are not always feeling rushed.
Give yourself permission to take a break. Relax, read a book, watch a movie.
Exercise regularly. Walking, gardening or any other physical activity you enjoy will relieve stress and tension.
Pick your battles. Set priorities for yourself so that you can be more flexible when it comes to the less important things in life.
If needed, meet with a counsellor you trust to help manage your stress more effectively.
Are you having trouble sleeping? Do you find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning? Do you have trouble concentrating on complex tasks? Do you fall asleep while reading or watching TV? Are you forgetful, irritable, jumpy? You could be suffering from the beginning stages of sleep deprivation. The causes of sleep deprivation are as varied as its symptoms and include everything from stress-related insomnia, to medical disorders such as sleep apnea, chronic fatigue syndrome and narcolepsy.
The good news is that sleep researchers have also found that just a few hours of rest can restore both the body and the brain to peak performance, even after hours or even days of sleep deprivation. And though some sleep disorders cannot be cured, they can be treated with a combination of drug therapy and lifestyle changes.
TIPS FOR CATCHING UP ON LOST SLEEP:
Pick one day each week to sleep in an extra hour and another to turn in early.
If you have young children at home, try napping with them.
If at any time your lack of sleep makes it difficult or impossible to function during waking hours, or if your sleep problems persist over three or four weeks, see your physician.
Anxiety is a physiological, behavioural and psychological reaction to stressful situations. Anxiety may include bodily reactions such as rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, dry mouth, sweating or queasiness. It may also affect your ability to act, express yourself or deal with certain situations. Anxiety often causes apprehension, uneasiness and feelings of being detached from yourself.
The purpose of anxiety is to force us to react when in threatening situations, e.g. feeling anxiety when walking in the dark of night is natural. However, people who have difficulties with anxiety experience symptoms that are more intense and last longer. In addition, anxiety may be experienced more frequently, may not have an identifiable cause or maybe an inappropriate reaction to a particular situation.
TIPS FOR REDUCING ANXIETY:
Learn to recognize what feelings are associated with your anxiety. When you notice these feelings coming up, try and figure out what it is that is bothering you.
20-30 minutes of deep relaxation per day can help reduce anxiety. Deep relaxation often involves slow, deep breathing, muscle relaxation and visualization.
Regular exercise will help reduce tension and stress.
Eliminate caffeine, sugar, nicotine and alcohol.
Acknowledge and express your feelings to others.
Choose some positive statements you can repeat to yourself again and again that will help calm you.
Meet with a counsellor you trust to help you learn to manage your anxiety effectively.
We all experience feeling ‘down’ or ‘blue’ once in a while. However, for people with depression, these feelings often occur several days a week or for many weeks at a time. People who are depressed can also experience:
Changes in sleep patterns, weight and eating habits.
A loss of interest in appearance and other things that were once enjoyable.
Feelings of fatigue and energy loss.
Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
A person who is depressed can experience changes that affect virtually every aspect of their life! If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it could mean some help is needed.
TIPS FOR COPING WITH DEPRESSION:
Meet with your doctor. Tell him/her about your symptoms. Get a good check-up.
Arrange to meet with a counsellor who can help you manage your depression.
Practice using relaxation techniques such as meditation, slow breathing or muscle relaxation.
Avoid sugar, caffeine and fatty foods. Stick to a regular, healthy diet.
Exercise regularly. This can ease tension, elevate your mood and increase general feelings of well-being.
Practice sending yourself positive, encouraging messages.
Try developing a daily routine and work at sticking to it.