Mind Align: Stress

June – Stress

We all know that stress is harmful to health and well-being.   Recent research suggests that it’s actually stressing about stress that’s harmful to your health.  Stress only negatively impacts your health when you believe it is harmful.

According to a research study at the University of Wisconsin, our attitudes about stress make it a killer. In the study, a sample of 30,000 people reported feeling high stress AND held a negative view of stress (reported that stress impacted their health a lot). In this group, participants had a 43% increased risk of health problems.

Stress can enhance performance in high pressure situations.  You can use stress and anxiety to be successful and work towards your goals.  Mindfully accepting stress and anxiety can shift your mindset and improve your well-being.

“Instead of seeing stress as a sign that something’s wrong, and then choosing a response that’s more destructive – like thinking, ‘I’m not cut out to be a parent.’ Or ‘This job is too much for me.’ Think, ‘OK, I’m angry right now. I’m overwhelmed because something I care about is at stake. So what do I want to do about that?’ Maybe you feel like you’re in a bad place and you care about your health, so you decide to practice self care. Or you want to stand up for yourself. Or apologize to someone because the relationship matters.” – Kelly McGonigal

 

Threat or challenge: A stress challenge energizes you; makes you more efficient, productive. A stress threat slowly kills you; inhibiting you in all sorts of ways. The difference, often, is simply how we think about what we’re facing.  For example – you start a new project at work.  You aren’t sure how you will complete it and will need to take a lot of time to research.  If you view this as a challenge and think of it as an investment in furthering your knowledge in your field of work, you can reduce your stress response.  Anxiety and stress about getting the work done and needed to take time to research will only lead you to become overwhelmed and reduce productivity.

The underappreciated aspects of the stress response – stress makes you social

  • Stress releases the hormone oxytocin, the same hormone that is released when you hug someone
  • Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone meaning it fine tunes the brain’s social instincts – it primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships
  • You crave contact with friends and family — it increases empathy, compassion and caring

 

Stress affects your entire body, mentally as well as physically. Some common signs include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Irritability
  • Teeth grinding
  • Panic attacks
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sweaty hands or feet
  • Heartburn
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Social isolation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Obsessive or compulsive behaviors

People are most susceptible to stress when they are:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Not having a network of support
  • Experiencing a major life change such as moving, the death of a loved one, starting a new job, having a child or getting married
  • Experiencing poor physical health
  • Not eating well

Developing a personalized approach to reducing stress can help you manage your mental health condition and improve your quality of life. Once you’ve learned what your triggers are, experiment with coping strategies. Some common ones include:

  • Accept your needs. Recognize what your triggers are. What situations make you feel physically and mentally agitated? Once you know this, you can avoid them when it’s reasonable to, develop coping skills when you can’t.
  • Manage your time. Prioritizing your activities can help you use your time well. Making a day-to-day schedule helps ensure you don’t feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and deadlines.
  • Practice relaxation. Deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation are good ways to calm yourself. Taking a break to refocus can have benefits beyond the immediate moment.
  • Exercise daily. Schedule time to walk outside, bike or join a dance class. Whatever you do, make sure it’s fun. Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall physical health.
  • Set aside time for yourself. Schedule something that makes you feel good. It might be reading a book, going to the movies, getting a massage or taking your dog for a walk.
  • Eat well. Eating unprocessed foods, like whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. Eating well can also help stabilize your mood.
  • Get enough sleep. Symptoms of some mental health conditions, like mania in bipolar disorder, can be triggered by getting too little sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. They don’t actually reduce stress: in fact, they often worsen it. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, educate yourself and get help.
  • Talk to someone. Whether to friends, family, a counselor or a support group, discussing your stressors can help you.

Stress is something that everyone must manage. We all experience stress from different things—jobs, family, finances, traffic. In order to successfully manage our stress, here are some stress-coping tips from 10 celebrities:

Michelle and Barack Obama use exercise and family time to manage the stresses of daily life. Barack attributes his ability to stay grounded with always making time for family. Both Michelle and Barack say that their daily exercise is what keeps stress levels down. Michelle even founded the nonprofit Let’s Move, whose mission is to end childhood obesity through exercise and healthy eating.

Kate Winslet uses organization to keep her stress at bay. She explained to Good Housekeeping that planning everything out and using tools like charts and lists help her keep things in control.

Beyonce knows first-hand the negative effects of unmanaged stress. She has had to cancel shows and even took time away from her career to focus on her mental wellness. Since taking the time off, Beyonce has found that starting her day with prayer and meditation allows her to stay calm and mentally well.

Demi Lovato uses her creativity to help manage stress. She says that expressing herself through art allows her to release negative emotions.

Keanu Reeves has found that sharing his wealth with family and charitable giving allow his to manage stress. He also states that he tries to living simply to keep outside stressors to a minimum.

Tiger Woods believes that positive thinking and focusing on what has gone right can help with de-stressing.

Angelina Jolie says that you need to do “something you love, that makes you happy, and that gives you your meditation.” One of Jolie’s go-to activities is using coloring books with her kids.

Jennifer Lawrence believes that pouring yourself into work you love can help with de-stressing. She says that for her, acting helped her to find a way to “open the door to a universe that [she] understood…and made [her] happy.”

What Stress Looks Like: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-stress-proof-life/201711/stress-doesnt-look-stress-and-thats-problem

Managing Stress: https://www.nami.org/find-support/living-with-a-mental-health-condition/managing-stress

Emergency stress stoppers are actions to help you defuse stress in the moment. You may need different stress stoppers for different situations, and sometimes it helps to combine them. Here are some ideas:

  1. Count to 10 before you speak or react.

  2. Take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel your body unclench a bit.

  3. Go for a walk, even if it’s just to the restroom and back. It can help break the tension and give you a chance to think things through.

  4. Try a quick meditation or prayer to get some perspective.

  5. If it’s not urgent, sleep on it and respond tomorrow.

  6. Take a break to pet the dog, hug a loved one or do something to help someone else.

  7. Work out or do something active.

When stress makes you feel bad, do something that makes you feel good, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes. Some of these activities may work for you:

  • Make art – draw, color, paint, or play a musical instrument.

  • Work on a scrapbook or photo album to focus on good memories.

  • Read a book, short story or magazine.

  • Meet a friend for coffee or a meal.

  • Play a favorite sport like golf, tennis or basketball.

  • Practice a hobby like sewing, knitting, or making jewelry.

  • Play with your kids or pets – outdoors if possible.

  • Listen to music or watch an inspiring performance.

  • Take a walk in nature.

  • Take a relaxing bath and feel the stress wash away.

  • Meditate or practice yoga.

  • Work in the garden or do a home improvement project.

  • Go for a run or bike ride to clear your head.

The key is to find your groove and make it a practice. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you may start to feel better once you disrupt the cycle of stress.

Al-Anon – Help and Hope for Families and Friends of Alcoholics

https://al-anon.org/

 Al‑Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. By sharing common experiences and applying the Al-Anon principles, families and friends of alcoholics can bring positive changes to their individual situations, whether or not the alcoholic admits the existence of a drinking problem or seeks help.

We can find understanding and support when we share our common experience with each other. Some of us are here because a spouse or partner has struggled with alcoholism. For others, the problem drinker is a parent, child, or grandchild. Sometimes a brother, a sister, or some other friend or relative brings us to Al-Anon. Many of us have had more than one alcoholic family member or friend.

Find support in your area: https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/

Stress Triggers: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/tests/personality/what-are-your-stress-triggers

PTSD: https://screening.mentalhealthamerica.net/screeningtools/ptsd?ref=n/a&ipiden=1cfb514a3fb6118322d797cabc47e88d&show=1