Stress Can Be Managed
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Wed., July 15, 2009
By Donna M. Wigand, LCSW
LAYOFFS, FORECLOSURES and other day-to-day tensions are forcing many of us to deal with levels of stress we have never dealt with before.
Feeling stressed is a normal reaction to the demands of life, but if it is not properly managed it can impair your health and leave you feeling trapped and hopeless.
Stress can be divided into two basic types: acute and chronic.
A quick self-assessment can help you determine whether stress is impairing your life.
Mild stress can be a useful motivator. When stress builds up, however, it can impair your physical, emotional and social well-being.
Symptoms of stress include headache, fatigue, poor concentration, feeling sad and hopeless, heart palpitations, chest pain, abdominal pain or gas, diarrhea or constipation, numb hands and/or lips, memory loss, irritability, anger and loneliness.
The most effective way to reduce stress is to eliminate sources of anxiety. Keep a diary of times when you feel most anxious or worried. Make a list for yourself of what is (or even might be) worrying you. Then make a list of what made or makes you feel good.
Next, practice these effective strategies for coping with stress:
If these techniques don't work for you, or if your stress begins to seriously reduce your quality of life, consult with your health care provider.
Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can greatly reduce stress. In some cases, antidepressant medicine may be needed, at least temporarily, to help you out of your stressed-out rut.
A balanced diet is important. Sweets, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine may give a brief illusion of relief. In the long term, though, they usually impair your ability to overcome stress.
Contra Costa residents can call the Crisis Center at 211, or the mental health access line toll-free at 888-678-7277.
If you experience chest pressure, faintness, shortness of breath, or have thoughts about suicide, call 911 immediately.
Wigand is the director of mental health for Contra Costa Health Services. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.