Stress Management

Video: What is Stress?

Stress Management

Stress: The body’s alert system

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and its causes can vary depending on one’s environment. In a bustling city like Austin, traffic can be a significant source of stress, while in rural areas, the lack of essential resources like rain can cause stress for farmers. However, stress management does not involve eradicating emotions altogether. Instead, it involves developing the skills to effectively respond to stress by understanding what it’s trying to communicate. By learning how to react to uncomfortable emotions like stress, we can harness their energy to achieve a sense of balance, peace, calmness, and happiness. It’s important to remember that stress causes discomfort, and this motivates us to seek out ways to feel better.

Symptoms of Stress

How your mind, body, and emotions feel and behave

  • Lethargy
  • Muscle tension (ex. clinched jaw)
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches, nausea, constipation, diarrhea
  • Frequent illness due to a compromised immune system
  • Sleeplessness, excessive tiredness during the day, sleeping too much
  • Sexual dysfunction and/or low libido
  • Feeling like you have the “jitters”
  • Trembling hands, rapid “twitchy” movements
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat, erratic heartbeat, chest pain
  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Grinding teeth or clenching your jaw
  • Dry mouth, trouble swallowing
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional tension
  • A sense of not being in control
  • Feeling emotionally flooded/overwhelmed
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Depression
  • Worrying
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Confusion
  • Pessimistic attitude
  • Difficulty working through logical problems
  • Isolation
  • Lashing out at people for minor stressors
  • Appetite fluctuation: Eating too much or too little. Excessive carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereal, sugar)
  • Substance abuse
  • Procrastination
  • Biting nails, fidgeting/wiggling
  • Frequent sighing
  • Compulsive behaviors

Effectively Managing Stress

Responding vs Reacting to Stress

Responding to stress instead of reacting to stress is a key component of effective stress management. When we react to stress, we often act without thinking, which can result in impulsive and potentially harmful behavior. On the other hand, responding to stress means taking the time to consider our options and choosing a course of action that is more likely to help the situation rather than making it worse.Remember, stress is a natural response to challenging situations, and it is trying to help us by alerting us to the need for action.

Letting stress help you, not paralyze you

Additionally, it’s important to recognize that stress can also be an opportunity for growth and learning. By facing and overcoming stressful situations, we can build resilience and gain valuable experience and skills. However, it’s crucial to strike a balance between pushing ourselves to grow and taking care of ourselves by practicing self-care and seeking support when needed. Ultimately, by letting stress help us rather than paralyze us, we can live more fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Stress Management FAQs

Stress Management FAQs

Can stress cause physical health problems?

Yes, prolonged or chronic stress can have negative impacts on physical health. Chronic stress can lead to issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, weakened immune system, gastrointestinal problems, and more. It’s important to manage stress effectively to prevent these negative impacts on physical health.

What are some effective ways to manage stress?

There are many effective ways to manage stress, including exercise, meditation, deep breathing, spending time in nature, socializing with loved ones, getting enough sleep, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring you joy. It’s important to find what works for you and make it a regular part of your routine.

When should I seek professional help for stress management?

If you feel overwhelmed and unable to manage stress on your own, it may be time to seek professional help. Counseling can be a helpful tool for managing stress, especially if it is impacting your daily life or relationships. Additionally, if you are experiencing physical symptoms due to stress, it may be important to seek medical attention.

What is the difference between ‘good stress’ and ‘bad stress’?

While the brain only recognizes general stress, we classify it as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on the context. For instance, getting a flat tire is considered ‘bad’ stress, while getting a promotion or winning the lottery would be considered ‘good’ stress. The body releases the same stress hormones in both cases, but our interpretation of the stress is based on the circumstances.

If stress is supposed to help us, why do we try to get rid of it?

Stress is a survival mechanism that can protect us, but we don’t necessarily want to eliminate it altogether. Rather, we aim to manage it effectively through counseling and other techniques so that it helps us make healthy decisions. When we talk about ‘getting rid of stress,’ we’re really referring to responding to it in a way that allows it to dissipate.

Why do some things stress me out, but not other people?

Our genetics, upbringing, and environment all contribute to making us unique individuals with different stress triggers. We are all wired differently, raised differently, and exposed to different circumstances, so what stresses us out can vary from person to person.

Stress Management Resources

National Institute of Mental Health – 5 Things You Should Know About Stress

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – Great information and links about stress

National Alliance on Mental Illness – Stress management and stress reduction techniques

National Suicide Prevention LifeLine Live Chat – 1-800-273-8255 is the 24/7 hotline

(512) 472-HELP – 24/7 Texas Crisis Line

A silhouette of a person breaking out of the chains of adversity with the sunset in the background.

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Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.

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