Stress is a natural part of life that we all have experienced at one time or another. However, we tolerate stress in different ways. If you live with high levels of stress from a difficult situation like the loss of a job, an illness, the death of a loved one or something else entirely; it can negatively impact your psychological well-being and affect your physical health.
Stress can be effectively managed, but it often takes practice and hard work to overcome it. Sometimes, you can take those steps on your own, and other times, you might need to obtain professional help. Continue reading to learn more about stress and some steps you can take to properly manage it to return to a healthier life.
What is Stress?
Wanda Wyatt, MS/MAC/ADC-S/LSW/SAP, is one of our therapists at Seneca Health Services. She believes that although most people experience stress daily, few people understand what stress is. Wanda defined stress as “the physical, mental and emotional response to the various demands, changes and events in life.”
But not all types of stress are bad stress. “In some cases, stress motivates and encourages individuals to complete a task they find difficult,” Wanda said. This is similar to the feeling of an adrenaline rush. However, problems occur when stress becomes too much to handle and causes internal feelings of anxiety or being overwhelmed.
Stress can be either positive or negative. “Positive stressors, such as having a full social calendar for the holidays or planning for a wedding or a newborn child, can influence one’s health just as negative stressors, such as financial struggles or being behind schedule on an important project can,” Wanda shared. COVID-19 is also an example of a negative stressor. Wanda explained that “the constant change in schedules, expectations and the reduction of our ability to socialize with others has individuals experiencing stress at a higher rate than normal.”
How Can I Tell if I Am Stressed?
If you are struggling to function at home or work and feel more depressed or anxious than normal, you may be stressed. “Stress symptoms begin to manifest themselves when one feels that life demands are exceeding their ability to deal with them,” stated Wanda.
Stress can cause both physical and psychological effects. According to Wanda, there are many signs of stress to be aware of, including:
- Feeling dizzy
- Grinding teeth
- Reduced or increased appetite
- Acid reflux
- Shoulder tension
- Increased forgetfulness
- High blood pressure
- Reduced sex drive
How Can I Manage My Stress?
Wanda defined stress management as “a collection of skills, tools and techniques that helps one reduce, manage and even counteract the negative side-effects of stress.” To effectively manage the stress in your life, you first must identify the sources of it. Major stressors like life and job changes can be easily recognized; however, identifying chronic stress sources is not always as easy. Sometimes, our true sources of stress come from our thoughts, habits and behaviors. And to successfully reduce our stress level, we must work to change those things.
According to Wanda, there are four main strategies for stress management:
- Change the stressors or environment causing your stress
- Change your direct response to these stressors
- Change your attitude and perceptions that affect your responses
- Take active steps to recover from stress
Although not always possible, the best way to handle stress is to try to prevent it. “Using time management skills, being a positive thinker, exercising, getting enough sleep and having good social support is key to preventing stress,” Wanda said.
Additionally, you need to realize that stress is your unique response to a particular situation or event. What is stressful for you, may not be stressful for your spouse, friend or coworker — and vice versa. Wanda shared that “managing your reaction to various stressors is an important stress management strategy.” She shared the following tips to help manage your reaction to various stressors:
- Change the way you deal with conflict
- Learn to stop worrying too much
- Manage your daily hassles in better ways
Sometimes, you are unable to prevent the stressful situation you are experiencing. In certain situations, you can try to change your mindset about how you view the situation to help reduce your stress regarding it. Some specific techniques Wanda recommends to do this include:
- Journal to better understand your thought patterns
- Examine your beliefs and attitudes
- Stress resiliency
There are many other ways to reduce and recover from stress. Wanda recommends implementing the following activities to help combat the effects of stress:
- Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation and breathing techniques
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Engage in conversation with a person who makes you feel understood
- Help someone else by volunteering
- Set limits to reduce stress
- Change or eliminate activities that create feelings of stress
Finding Professional Help | Seneca Health Services
If stress is affecting your relationships, work or health, you may benefit from seeing one of our behavioral health professionals at Seneca Health Services. At Seneca Health Services, we believe effective treatment is different for each individual; therefore, we personalize patient care. That is why we manage each patient’s case individually and provide support to develop the skills they need to manage their illness symptoms.
Child, adolescent and adult patients can receive counseling services at Seneca Health Services. Sessions may be individual, family or group-based, as needed. A trained therapist will guide interactions in a setting that will encourage reflection, accountability, empathy and positive communication skills. Furthermore, therapy has many other benefits, including helping patients foster personal growth, build positive peer pressure, keep commitments and follow a routine. Your therapist will work in conjunction with a psychiatric medical provider if medications are needed.
When a patient enters our therapy services, they will find compassion, companionship, understanding and much more. If you need help or have questions, do not hesitate to contact the Seneca office nearest you or use the link provided here.
Greenbrier County, West Virginia: (304) 497-0500
Nicholas County, West Virginia: (304) 872-2659
Pocahontas County, West Virginia: (304) 799-6865
Webster County, West Virginia: (304) 847-5425