Stress Management

Get a grip on stress

Stress is a natural part of life says the National Mental Health Association (NMHA). But if there's a lot of unmanaged stress in your life, getting a handle on it may help you feel healthier and happier.

Stress is often described as our physical or mental response to pressures and obligations. When we experience stress, our blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, metabolism, and blood flow to our muscles increase to create extra energy for our protection. This is often referred to as the "fight or flight" response.

We can thrive on the right amount of stress, but too much unmanaged stress can cause emotional and physical problems, says the American Psychological Association. Stress can contribute to serious conditions like high blood pressure, and cardiovascular and heart disease. It can cause minor illnesses like insomnia, backaches and headaches. Ulcers, allergies, asthma, migraines have also been linked to stress. Many believe stress is a contributing factor in making medical problems worse.

What causes stress?

Everyone is different when it comes to stress. What one person experiences as stressful, another person may not.

But where does stress come from? The following are sources of stress for many people, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Fear: Fear may involve a physical threat or a psychological worry.
  • Uncertainty: A change of job, a move to another location, or other life transitions can cause stress. Uncertainty can cause feelings of being out of control.
  • Attitudes and perceptions: Negative attitudes can cause feelings of frustration and stress. Your perceptions of a situation, yourself, and your personal resources to deal with a challenge can contribute to stress.
  • Change: Changes involving work or business, personal illness or injury, loss of friends, or personal finances can cause stress.

What you can do to manage stress

With the pace of life and work quickening, managing stress is more important and difficult. Here are some strategies from the NMHA:

  • Be realistic in setting limits around what you can and can't take on.
  • Don't be a perfectionist or try to be superhuman.
  • Set priorities and take one thing at a time.
  • Exercise regularly and lead a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition, adequate rest, and preventive health.
  • Share your feelings and surround yourself with friends and family who support you. Don't try to go it alone.
  • Be flexible.
  • Meditate.
  • Use positive visualization.
  • Take part in hobbies and other activities you enjoy.