Coping with Stress
For a Healthy Mind and Body…
Talk to a Psychologist
Focus on Mind/Body Health:
Stressful situations continually arise in life today, but it helps to know how your mind and your body can work to support each other.
Did you know:
- 93 percent of Americans say that perceptions, thoughts, and choices affect physical health (APA national poll, 2005)
- Two-thirds of all office visits to family physicians are due to stress-related symptoms (American Academy of Family Physicians)
- 58 percent of Americans believe that one can't have good physical health without good mental health (APA national poll, 2005)
- High levels of hostility have been found to predict heart disease more often than high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, or obesity (Health Psychology, November 2002)
- More than 1/3 of Americans say they have had an illness that was primarily caused by stress (APA national poll, 2005)
- Research supports the idea that having a positive outlook can extend one's life (Emotional Longevity: What Really Determines How Long You Live, Norman B. Anderson and Elizabeth P. Anderson, 2003)
Increasingly, we're discovering the mind/body health connection. But even though we know the two are linked, Americans are still more likely to seek help for the mind only in cases of depression or suicidal thoughts. People turn to diet after diet rather than deal with the emotional issues that lead them to overeat. They'll treat the physical ailment that may have been forestalled if they'd sought help for the stress that preceded the illness. There are steps you can take to help understand and cope with stress. Working with a mental health professional can also be very beneficial in learning healthy ways to deal with stress.
In today’s fast-paced and ever-connected world, stress has become a fact of life. Stress can cause people to feel overwhelmed or pushed to the limit. The American Psychological Association’s 2007 “Stress in America” poll found that one-third of people in the U.S. report experiencing extreme levels of stress. In addition, nearly one-in-five report that they are experiencing high levels of stress 15 or more days per month. While low to moderate levels of stress can be good for you when managed in healthy ways, extreme stress takes both an emotional and physical toll on the individual.
With the consequences of poorly managed stress ranging from fatigue to heart disease and obesity, it is important to know how to recognize high stress levels and take action to handle it in healthy ways. Being able to control stress is a learned behavior, and stress can be effectively managed by taking small steps toward changing unhealthy behaviors.
APA offers the following tips on how to manage your stress:
Understand how you stress. Everyone experiences stress differently. How do you know when you are stressed? How are your thoughts or behaviors different from times when you do not feel stressed?
Identify your sources of stress. What events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to your children, family, health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else?
Learn your own stress signals. People experience stress in different ways. You may have a hard time concentrating or making decisions, feel angry, irritable or out of control, or experience headaches, muscle tension or a lack of energy. Gauge your stress signals.
Recognize how you deal with stress. Determine if you are using unhealthy behaviors (such as smoking, drinking alcohol and over/under eating) to cope. Is this a routine behavior, or is it specific to certain events or situations? Do you make unhealthy choices as a result of feeling rushed and overwhelmed?
Find healthy ways to manage stress. Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities such as meditation, exercising or talking things out with friends or family. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Don't take on too much at once. Focus on changing only one behavior at a time.
Take care of yourself. Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity. Ensure you have a healthy mind and body through activities like yoga, taking a short walk, going to the gym or playing sports that will enhance both your physical and mental health. Take regular vacations or other breaks from work. No matter how hectic life gets, make time for yourself — even if it's just simple things like reading a good book or listening to your favorite music.
Reach out for support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.