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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Managing Stress

We all face stress of one kind or another and some people deal with it well while others do not. We live in a face paced, 24/7 world with little time to stop to relax so I thought I'd print some information I found on healthfinder.gov that provides descriptions of the different kinds of stress and things we can do to relieve stress.

The Basics

Preventing and managing stress can help lower your risk of serious health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression. You can prevent or lessen stress by:

Planning ahead
Preparing for stressful events
Some stress is hard to avoid. You can find ways to manage stress by:
Noticing when you feel stressed
Taking time to relax
Getting active and eating healthy
Talking to friends and family

What are the signs of stress?When people are under stress, they may feel:

Unable to focus

Stress also affects the body. Physical signs of stress include:

Back pain
Problems sleeping
Upset stomach
Weight gain or loss
Tense muscles
Frequent or more serious colds

Use this tool to better understand your stress (http://www.healthcalculators.org/calculators/stress.asp ).

What causes stress?Stress is often caused by some type of change. Even positive changes, like marriage or a job promotion, can be stressful. Stress can be short–term or long–term.

Common causes of short–term stress include:

Too much to do and not much time
Lots of little problems in the same day (like a traffic jam and running late)
Getting lost
Having an argument

Longer–term stress can be caused by things like:

Divorce or problems in a marriage
Death of a loved one
Caring for someone who is sick
Problems at work
Money problems

What are the benefits of managing stress?
Managing stress can help you:

Sleep better
Control your weight
Get sick less often and heal faster
Lessen neck and back pain
Be in a better mood
Get along better with family and friends

Take Action!

Being prepared and in control of your situation will help you feel less stress. Follow these 9 tips for preventing and managing stress.

1. Plan your time.Think ahead about how you are going to use your time. Write a to–do list and decide which tasks are the most important. Be realistic about how long each thing will take.

2. Prepare yourself.Prepare ahead of time for stressful events like a job interview or a hard conversation with a loved one.
Picture the event in your mind.
Stay positive.
Imagine what the room will look like and what you will say.
Have a back–up plan.

3. Relax with deep breathing. Learn how easy it is to use deep breathing to relax (http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_relief_meditation_yoga_relaxation.htm#deep)
4. Relax your muscles. Stress causes tension in your muscles. Try stretching or taking a hot shower to help you relax. You can do these stretches at your desk (http://dohs.ors.od.nih.gov/ergo_computers.htm#muscular).

5. Get active. Physical activity can help prevent and manage stress. It can also help relax your muscles and improve your mood. Try a new activity like yoga or gardening.
Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast or biking. Be sure to exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time. Do strengthening activities (like sit–ups or lifting weights) at least 2 days a week.

6. Eat healthy. Give your body plenty of energy by eating fruits, vegetables, and protein.

7. Drink alcohol only in moderation.Don't rely on alcohol and drugs to manage your stress. If you choose to drink, drink only in moderation. This means no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.

8. Talk to friends and family. Tell your friends and family if you are feeling stress. They may be able to help.

9. Get help if you need it. If your stress doesn't go away or keeps getting worse, you may need help. Over time, stress can lead to serious problems like depression, post–traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or anxiety.

These conditions can be treated with talk therapy (called psychotherapy) or medicines. If you are feeling down or hopeless, talk to a doctor about depression. Visit this Web site to learn more about anxiety (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml).

A mental health professional (like a psychologist or social worker) can help you deal with stress. Stress is a normal part of life, and lots of people need help to manage it better.

Learn more about how you can keep your heart healthy.

Start Today: Small Steps

Take a few slow, deep breaths.
Take a hot shower or bath.
Talk to a friend or loved one about how you are feeling.

Content last updated on: May 13, 2010

National Health Information Center
P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133healthfinder@nhic.org

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