Chronic Stress Can Slowly Take Joy From You Before You Even Realize All The Time That Has Gone By
Recognizing Stress Before It Takes Too Much Of Your Time
The stresses of life and we all have them, can be obvious, but oftentimes, they sneak up on us. We may deal with a lot of stress day in and day out. It is just part of life, right? The problem is, chronic stress can zap us of so much energy and joy in our life. Not to mention affecting our physical health too. When stress is overwhelming or accumulative, it can put a heavy strain on our immune system and other systems of the body.
Stress has been shown to physically alter body cells. It affects our physical health and also our mental and emotional state that can deteriorate to the point of general unhappiness or worse.
Many experts tell us that it not always just the stresses themselves, but how we perceive them or our reaction to them. I am sure that you have heard it said that it is not so much the stresses we have in life, but our reaction to them. And this is surely correct, but there are those who have more than their share of stresses, which could make it difficult for effective management. These are major stresses that may present themselves, one after another in a short period of time. When this happens, even a good stress management approach can be tested.
How Can We Measure Stress?
Below is a typical measurement tool to give numbers to some of the normal life stresses. A measurement is used with 1 being less true and 5 being mostly true. Now some of the answers are absolute, but there may be some variance specific to your situation. For example, the first one is death of close family member in the last 12 months. Maybe it occurred 14 months ago, but you are still adjusting to that loss, so maybe you wouldn’t score a 5, but maybe, depending on how you feel about this still, maybe a 3. And for those pet lovers, who consider their pets like family, this can be included in this. Go through the list and see how you fare. The scale key is below. As mentioned, 1 is Less True, 5 is Mostly True
1 2 3 4 5 A close family member died in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I moved to a new town in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I changed jobs in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 My son/daughter left home in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 A close friend/family member who is ill depends on you for care.
1 2 3 4 5 I’ve had a major health problem in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 A close relationship ended in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I lost my job or retired in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I got married in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I took on a lot of debt in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I got divorced or separated in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I lost a lot of money in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing marital problems.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing sexual problems.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing financial problems.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing trouble with friends or relatives.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing problems meeting family demands.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing pressure at work or school.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing pressure with emotional problems.
1 2 3 4 5 I am constantly facing do-or-die deadlines.
__________ TOTAL SCORE (add up all numbers)
20 – 35 Virtually stress free
36 – 50 Somewhat stressful
51 – 75 Stressed – watch out
76 – 100 Super stressed – reduce all pressures in your life or someone will be calling 911.
This is meant to be a general guideline only. One person’s reaction to a certain event can be radically different than another person’s reaction to a very similar event. There are many personal variables to take into account as we have our individual reactions to certain stresses.
How Do You Know If You Are Experiencing Too Much Stress?
Here are some generally symptoms to watch yourself for or watch a loved one who is under a lot of stress for. Or if you feel like the person in the cartoon above, you need to get a handle on things.
Some mental or emotional changes you might see are the following:
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Anxiousness and/or worry
- Lack of motivation
- Being consistently negative about things
- Feeling overwhelmed
- General unhappiness
Some of the physical symptoms you might notice:
- Aches and pains
- Bowel changes
- Chest pain or tightness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent illness
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Not wanting to do your normal activities
- Using more alcohol or cigarettes
- Nervous habits
There are stresses in life that we cannot control. The fact is, we will have stress for various reasons. We need effective coping mechanisms for the life events that cause stress, but if your stress is chronic, it can cause health problems and take the joy out of life altogether. We need to have stress management skills to help us manage stress, so we don’t get overloaded to the point of physical, mental and emotional harm.
Stress Management Starts With These 5 Things
Having better stress management starts when you have control over these areas:
Your method of dealing with problems that arise.
Dr. Oz with cranial sacral therapy as a form of stress relief.
Stress management involves:
1. Changing what you can. (or avoiding if possible).
Avoid situations and people that cause undue stress. Don’t put so much on your to-do list that you no time for yourself at all.
2. If you can’t change it, change your reaction to it
If a stressful situation is unavoidable, look for ways to make it less stressful. Is that being more positive, focusing more on the good points of the situation or maybe communication, etc. Sometimes you can’t change it. This is where your stress management strategies come into play.
3. Taking care of yourself.
You need time where you can relax. Deep breathing has been well known to initiate relaxation and diffuse feelings of stress in the moment.
We have been told by experts on numerous occasions that exercise is one of the best stress management techniques.
A healthy nutritious diet helps the body stay strong and this helps us with the internal energy needed to better cope with stress.
Sleep is also important. If you are fatigued during the day, you will be less able to deal with stress.
Laughter is critical for stress relief as well as good health. Find things to laugh and smile about. Laughter has been proven to have many health benefits. When we laugh, our body chemistry actually changes. It can also help decrease the feelings of stress. Even smiling can send these happy natural chemicals. Put things around you that make you smile, chuckle or laugh on a daily basis.
For more ideas on how to manage chronic stress, you can check out our other articles on this series on stress. Also, Helpguide has a free online program that might help you with changing your emotional response to the stresses in your life.