STRESS

HEALTHY LIFE

067A145 June 18, 2009 Authored by: hyepo

STRESS
HEALTHY LIFE
Ca us es A lot of things can cause stress. You may feel stress when you go on a job interview, take a test, or run a race. These kinds of short-term stress are normal. Long-term (chronic) stress is caused by stressful situations or events that last over a long period of time, like problems at work or conflicts in your family. Over time, chronic stress can lead to severe health problems. Personal problems that can cause stress include: • • • • • • Your health, especially if you have a chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis. Emotional problems, such as anger you can't express, depression, grief, guilt, or low self-esteem. Your relationships, such as having problems with your relationships or feeling a lack of friendships or support in your life. Major life changes, such as dealing with the death of a parent or spouse, losing your job, getting married, or moving to a new city. Stress in your family, such as having a child, teen, or other family member who is under stress, or being a caregiver to a family member who is elderly or who has health problems. For more information. Conflicts with your beliefs and values. For example, you may value family life, but you may not be able to spend as much time with your family as you want.

Social and job issues that can cause stress include: • • • Your surroundings. Living in an area where overcrowding, crime, pollution, or noise is a problem can create chronic stress. Your job. Being unhappy with your work or finding your job too demanding can lead to chronic stress. Your social situation. Being poor, feeling lonely, or facing discrimination based on your race, gender, age, or sexual orientation can add stress to your life.

Post - t raum at i c st ress You may need help dealing with stress if you have faced a life-threatening or traumatic event such as rape, a natural disaster, or war. These events can cause acute stress disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For more information, see the topic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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Stress in children and teens Children and teens notice and react to stress in their family and also experience their own stress. It is important to recognize stress in children and teens and help them with healthy coping strategies. The strategies they learn often stay with them into adulthood. Generally, anything that may cause children fear and anxiety can cause stress. This can include being away from home, starting a new school or moving to a new location, being separated from parents or caregivers, worrying about school and getting along with others, worrying about their changing bodies, and worrying about the future. The following are some common signs of stress in different age groups. Signs of stress in children and teens Preschool and toddlers • • • • • • • • • Anger Anxiety Eating and sleeping problems, including nightmares Fear of being alone Irritability Regressing to infant behaviors Trembling with fright Uncontrollable crying Withdrawal • • STRESS | 6/18/2009 Elementary-age children • • • • • • • Being distrustful Complaining of headaches or stomachaches Feeling unloved Having no appetite Having trouble sleeping Needing to urinate frequently Not caring about school or friendship Acting withdrawn Worrying about the future Preteens and teens • • • • • Anger Disillusionment Distrust of the world Low self-esteem Stomachaches and headaches Rebellion

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Ef f e cts Common symptoms of stress include: • • • • • • • A fast heartbeat. A headache. A stiff neck and/or tight shoulders. Back pain. Fast breathing. Sweating, and sweaty palms. An upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea.

Over time, stress can affect your • • • • • • • Immune system. Constant stress can make you more likely to get sick more often. And if you have a chronic illness such as AIDS, stress can make your symptoms worse. Heart. Stress is linked to high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia), blood clots, and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). It's also linked to coronary artery disease, heart attack, and heart failure. Muscles. Constant tension from stress can lead to neck, shoulder, and low back pain. Stress may make rheumatoid arthritis worse. Stomach. If you have stomach problems, such as gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis, stress can make your symptoms worse. Reproductive organs. Stress is linked to low fertility, erection problems, and problems during pregnancy, and painful menstrual periods. Lungs. Stress can make symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worse. Skin. Skin problems such as acne and psoriasis are made worse by stress. STRESS | 6/18/2009

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How stress affects your thoughts and emotions You might notice signs of stress in the way you think, act, and feel. You may: • • • • • • • Feel cranky and unable to deal with even small problems. Feel frustrated, lose your temper more often, and yell at others for no reason. Feel jumpy or tired all the time. Find it hard to focus on tasks. Worry too much about small things. Feel that you are missing out on things because you can't act quickly. Imagine that bad things are happening or about to happen.

How stress affects you depends on many things, such as: • Your personality.

T he t ype of s tre ss ma t te rs Stress can affect you both instantly (acute stress) and over time (chronic stress). Acute (short-term) stress is the body's instant response to any situation that seems demanding or dangerous. Your stress level depends on how intense the stress is, how long it lasts, and how you cope with the situation. Most of the time, your body recovers quickly from acute stress. But stress can cause problems if it happens too often or if your body doesn't have a chance to recover. In people with heart problems, acute stress can trigger an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia) or even a heart attack. Chronic (long-term) stress is caused by stressful situations or events that last over a long period of time. This could include having a difficult job or dealing with a chronic disease. If you already have a health problem, stress can make it worse.

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Helping with stress Adults can help children and teens with stress in many ways. Two important ways are creating a low-stress environment and helping them develop positive coping skills. The following can help develop a low-stress environment: • • • • • • • • Acknowledge your child's feelings. Develop trust and let your child know that mistakes are learning experiences. Be supportive and praise your child. Show care, warmth, and love. Hug your child often. Have clear expectations without being overly rigid; emphasize cooperation over competition. Do not over-schedule your child into too many activities. Find ways to have your children contribute to the family. Build on the strengths of the family. Be aware of what your child wants (not just what you want).

It is important to help children develop positive coping skills, as these skills are often carried into adult life. You can help by: • • Providing a good example. Keep calm and control your anger. Think through plans to decrease stress and share them with the family. Encouraging rational thinking. Be sure your children think about consequences of their actions. Help them understand what fantasy is and what reality is. For example, a child's behavior did not cause a divorce, or they are not failures because they were not picked first for something. Providing them with some control. Allow your children to make choices within your family framework. For example, allow them to arrange their room, choose family activities, and help make family decisions. Talking openly. When appropriate, talk about your stressful day. Encourage them to talk about what is bothering them. Finding a physical activity and/or hobby that they enjoy and encouraging them to participate.

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Encouraging them to eat healthy foods and emphasizing the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Learning and teaching your children relaxation skills.

Ways to Relieve Stress The best way to manage your stress is to learn healthy coping strategies. You can start practicing these tips right away. Try one or two until you find a few that work for you. Practice these techniques until they become habits you turn to when you feel stress. Stress-relief techniques focus on relaxing your mind and your body. Ways to relax your mind • Write. It may help to write about things that are bothering you.1 Write for 10 to 15 minutes a day about stressful events and how they made you feel. Or think about starting a stress journal. This helps you find out what is causing your stress and how much stress you feel. After you know, you can find better ways to cope. Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to. Talking with friends, family, a counselor, or a member of the clergy about your feelings is a healthy way to relieve stress. Do something you enjoy. This can be: o A hobby, such as gardening. o A creative activity, such as writing, crafts, or art. o Playing with and caring for pets. o Volunteer work. You may feel that you're too busy to do these things. But making time to do something you enjoy can help you relax. It might also help you get more done in other areas of your life. • Focus on the present. Meditation and guided imagery are two ways to focus and relax your mind.

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Meditate. When you meditate, you focus your attention on things that are happening right now. Paying attention to your breathing is one way to focus. Use guided imagery. With guided imagery, you imagine yourself in any setting that helps you feel calm and relaxed. You can use audiotapes, books, or a teacher to guide you.

Ways to relax your body • Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Walking is a great way to get started. Even everyday activities such as housecleaning or yard work can reduce stress. Stretching can also relieve muscle tension. For more information about becoming more active, see the topic Fitness. Try techniques to relax. Breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and yoga can help relieve stress. o Breathing exercises. These include roll breathing, a type of deep breathing. For more information, see: o Progressive muscle relaxation. This technique reduces muscle tension. You do it by relaxing separate groups of muscles one by one. o Yoga, tai chi, and qi gong. These techniques combine exercise and meditation. You may need some training at first to learn them. Books and videos are also helpful. You can do all of these techniques at home.

Ways t o Avo id St res s Stress is a part of life, and you can't always avoid it. But you can try to avoid situations that can cause it, and you can control how you respond to it. The first step knows your own coping strategies. Try using a stress journal to record stressful events, your response to them, and how you coped. After you know what is causing your stress, try making some changes in your life that will help you avoid stressful situations. Here are a few ideas: Ma na ge y our t ime Time management is a way to find the time for more of the things you want and need to do. It helps you decide which things are urgent and which can wait. Managing your time can make your life easier, less stressful, and more meaningful. For more information, see: L o ok a t yo ur l if e s ty le The choices you make about the way you live affect your stress level. Your lifestyle may not cause stress on its own, but it can prevent your body from recovering from it. Try to: STRESS | 6/18/2009

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Find a balance between personal, work, and family needs. This isn't easy. Start by looking at how you spend your time. Maybe there are things that you don't need to do at all. Finding a balance can be especially hard during the holidays. Have a sense of purpose in life. Many people find meaning through connections with family, friends, jobs, or volunteer work. Get enough sleep. Your body recovers from the stresses of the day while you are sleeping. Adopt healthy habits. Eat a healthy diet, limit how much alcohol you drink, and don't smoke. Staying healthy is your best defense against stress. Exercise. Even moderate exercise, such as taking a daily walk, can reduce stress.

Ge t s upp or t Support means having the love, trust, and advice of others. But support can also be something more concrete, like time or money. It can be hard to ask for help. But doing so doesn't mean you're weak. If you're feeling stressed, you can look for support from: • • • • • • Family and friends. Coworkers or people you know through hobbies or other interests. A professional counselor. People you know from church, or a member of the clergy. Employee assistance programs at work, or stress management classes. Support groups. These can be very helpful if your stress is caused by a special situation. Maybe you are a caregiver for someone who is elderly or has a chronic illness.

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