Address Stress

A practical guide for reducing stress and improving your life
Imagine driving on a sunny day, listening to a great song on the radio, when you crest a hill and see nothing but red taillights stretching to the horizon. Road construction has brought traffic to a standstill and you’ll be late for a meeting. Why is it that some people simply relax after calling ahead to their appointment while others find themselves pounding on the steering wheel and shouting? Each of us has a unique reaction to stress, which is defined as the body’s automatic response to a demand for change. It is impossible to avoid all sources of stress, and you wouldn’t want to. Our lives are full of physical and mental challenges that allow us to demonstrate our talents and provide satisfying rewards. There are also good forms of stress response that can quicken reaction time when we find ourselves in a hazardous situation, such as pulling back from a hot stove or moving away from a speeding vehicle. Problems arise when our personal coping mechanisms fail to recognize the difference between life-threatening situations and standard, day-to-day stressors. We can feel anger, anxiety or depression because of events like employment issues and traffic jams that are beyond our control. Without an appropriate outlet, these stressors can have a serious negative effect on personal happiness and physical health. The good news is that it is possible to learn to handle life’s challenges in a productive way. This guide is intended to teach you to identify your personal stress warning signs and triggers, then develop a plan for managing them. You will see how to implement your plan, evaluate its success, and gain additional help when it’s needed. The path to self improvement is accomplished through small, manageable steps. It is our hope you will take the time to understand how caring for yourself can create a happy, healthy and well-balanced life. And that you will discover your personal power to achieve peace of mind.

Peace of Mind

I.D.E.A.
4 STEPS TO REDUCE STR ESS

DID YOU KNOW?
A survey of Americans found that one-third of people are living with extreme stress. 39% of adults reported their stress has increased in the past year. 44% of adults say their stress has increased over the last five years. When stress occurs, only 29% of adults say they are doing an excellent or good job of managing or reducing it. Source: The American Psychological Association

I.D.E.A.
The 4 Steps for Reducing Stress

DECIDE
Q: A:

Make yourself a priority

IDENTIFY
Q: A:

How can learning to manage my stress benefit me?
When your needs are taken care of, you are stronger and more resilient to stress. Improving your personal coping mechanisms can have a positive impact on your overall wellness while also improving your relationships with those around you. Moderate amounts of well-managed stress can yield the following benefits: • Protection against some diseases of aging like Alzheimer’s by keeping the brain cells working at peak capacity • Suppression of the production of estrogen – which could help prevent breast cancer • Moderate stress levels before surgery lead to better recovery than high or low levels • Short-term stress increases activity in immune cells that boost the body’s defenses Your decision to make managing your stress a priority will put you on the path to a happier, healthier life. Remember, you are worth it!

Know your warning signs
What are the signs and symptoms of elevated stress?
Being able to recognize your personal signs of stress can help you manage your response more quickly. A few of the most common symptoms include: Physical • Tightness in neck and shoulders • Back pain • Sleep difficulties • Tiredness or fatigue • Racing heartbeat or palpitations • Sweating • Ringing in ears • Dizziness or fainting • Stomachache • Diarrhea or constipation • Loss of interest in sex Behavior • Grinding teeth • Inability to complete tasks • Overly critical attitude • Fidgeting • Overuse of alcohol • Emotional eating • Fist clenching • Irritability • Boredom • Depression Intellectual • Continual worry • Trouble thinking clearly • Loss of creativity • Indecisiveness • Loss of sense of humor

ExECUTE
Q: A:

STReSS SOS
Consider the following strategies if you find yourself in an immediate stress crisis: • Take a quick break to rejuvenate your mind. You could take a short walk, look at or listen to something that is inspiring to you, or practice focused breathing techniques. • Talk your situation over with someone you trust who is both supportive and empathetic. • Connect with others who can help buffer some of the negative effects of stress. • Look for humor in the situation; when used appropriately, it is a great way to diffuse tension.

Take steps to achieve happiness and health
I’ve decided I want to do a better job managing my stress. What now?
Having a plan can help you manage situations and prevent stress from building. Circle your symptoms from the list in the first section and, whenever you notice yourself experiencing them, do the following: • Stop and breathe • Reflect – Try to identify an event or situation that triggered your stress. • Keep a journal – Write down what caused the stress, how you felt physically and emotionally, how you acted in response, and what you did to make yourself feel better. • Make time for yourself - Your need for relaxation and recreation is vitally important. Nearly all stress-reducing activity has immediate benefits such as increased physical well-being, increased energy, increased alertness, and improvement in emotional wellness. These benefits increase with consistent practice.

ASSESS

Look at your progress

Q: How do I make these changes permanent? A: Establishing new behaviors – whether it’s eating more Q: What if I find myself slipping from my plan? A: Try not to feel discouraged. Figure out what got in Q: A:

healthfully or teaching yourself to relax – is a challenge at first. Developing a routine can help make new behaviors stick.

START SImple
Mental and physical wellness is completely entwined. You can’t think well if your body is hurting, and vice versa. Fortunately, you can have an immediate impact on your wellbeing by taking some small, simple steps. Professionals recommend focusing on: • EatING - Try making incremental changes to your diet; low blood sugar can cause anxiety and irritability while too much food can make you feel lethargic. tip for eating well: try eating small meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar level and give yourself balanced energy. • MovING – Exercise is an effective way to lift mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both mind and body. tip to get moving: Park your vehicle farther away from entrances or take the stairs instead of the elevator. • REStING - Being well rested facilitates maintaining emotional balance. tip for improving rest: Set a regular bedtime or establish a time when all screens (television, computer, etc.) must be turned off so the mind has time to relax.

the way and ask yourself what you could change to make it easier to go back to your plan. Focus on what made you feel good and how you can repeat those behaviors.

I felt overwhelmed by making these changes. What should I do?
Sometimes just thinking about undertaking personal improvement can be stressful. Rather than deciding that making a change is not for you, pick one problem you feel you can manage and place your focus there. You can add to your efforts as you go along.

an important tool in managing stress. Making these connections can be similar to finding a workout partner – they help you stay motivated and on-target with your goals.

Q: What if I could use some help? A: Finding a friend you feel comfortable with can be

or professional counselor can sometimes make a huge difference over working things out by yourself. It can save time as well as show you new points of view, provide valuable tips and techniques, and help keep you on track. See the back of this guide for our contact information.

Q: What if this isn’t working? A: Getting the assistance of a mentor, spiritual leader,

Going Further for

Peace of Mind

The primary goal of this guide is to encourage you to take care of yourself. If you feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, or your stress is affecting your ability to function, you could be suffering from something deeper like depression or anxiety. Don’t let it go unchecked. Contact your health care provider and work toward finding a happier, healthier future. You can also call us if you would like personalized attention. Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri will provide you with support and information or connect you to resources or service providers who are equipped to address your needs.

We’re here to help.

(314) 773-1399

www.mha-em.org

About Mental Health America of eastern missouri
Good mental health is fundamental to the quality of every human life. Founded in 1945, MHA-EM is one of 300 affiliates of Mental Health America. This community-based organization works to reduce stigma, remove barriers to mental health care, and improve the mental wellness of everyone, especially the 54 million individuals with mental illness. At MHA-EM, we are passionate about promoting mental wellness for everyone. We believe good mental health is the foundation for living life to the fullest. We demonstrate this belief through advocacy, education and service. We offer programs and services that show people how to take action to improve mental wellness and offer support for those facing mental health issues. We are a voice for positive change. Help our voice be heard by making a donation to MHA-EM today.

Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri
1905 S. Grand Blvd. | St. Louis, MO 63104 314-773-1399 voice | 314-773-5930 fax 1-800-359-5695 Missouri toll-free www.mha-em.org | info@mha-em.org

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