Stress Less for a Healthier Life

 
Stress Less for a Healthier Life

Jeremiah Gums, M.D.
Boys Town Internal Medicine

Everyone gets stressed out.  Some stress is good. It helps keep you alert and focused. Other stress, like our fight-or-flight natural instinct, can be life-saving. But when stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can cause physical, mental and emotional harm.

Types of Stress

There are three different types of stress that include acute, episodic acute and chronic.  Each has its own characteristics, symptoms and treatment.

  • Acute Stress is the most common form of stress. It often stems from demands and pressures of the past and anticipated pressures of the future. Symptoms are experienced infrequently and may include emotional distress, muscular tension, fatigue, upset stomach and elevated vitals.
  • Episodic Acute Stress often stems from taking on more than someone can handle, causing ceaseless worrying.  Irritability is felt when someone feels he or she is unable to accomplish things in a timely manner.  Additional symptoms may include hypertension, stomach cramps, anxiousness and headaches.
  • Chronic Stress is a response to an emotional pressure suffered over an extended period of time.  When the body experiences constant stress, it cannot relax. This can cause long-term mental and physical health problems.  Symptoms may include anxiety, depression, social isolation, insomnia and panic attacks.

Causes of Stress

Stress can come from internal and external factors.  External stressors relates to events and situations that happen to you – moving, getting a new job or death of a family member. Internal stressors come from thoughts and feelings within ourself – fears, beliefs, perfectionism or uncertainty. The more stressors you experience, the more stress you feel.

Stress Management Tips

Finding positive, healthy ways to manage stress as it occurs, can put you on a path to a better quality of life. Boys Town Internal Medicine recommends:

  • Taking charge of your thoughts, emotions and the way you deal with problems so you can focus on the present.
  • Streamlining the schedule by learning to say ‘no’ and assessing what is the best use of time.
  • Cultivating positive friendships and surrounding yourself with those who support you. A good laugh, cry or nice conversation can work to alleviate daily pressures.
  • Taking care of you by setting aside time for relaxation, enjoying hobbies and exercising.

The most effective stress management tip begins with identifying your source of stress and finding ways to manage it.  Keeping a stress journal and recording your thoughts and how you responded to each situation, can be a valuable tool in your journey to living a less stressful life.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you continue to feel overwhelmed, talk to your doctor.  Your physician can provide you with additional information on how you can learn to manage stress, identify situations or behaviors that contribute to your stress and help you develop an action plan for changing them.