My alarm clock is going off, the kids aren’t ready for school, traffic is gridlock, my annoying boss never takes a day off, and bills continue to come in the mail. Sure you have had a day like this but do most of your days feel like this?Stress occurs naturally for everyone. It is not something we can completely rid ourselves of. Many times chronic high levels of stress can lead to anxiety and require professional help. Stress is often related to an event, person, or task that a person feels is ‘stressing him/her out.’ Most often, however, it is our own thoughts, perceptions, and belief systems that are leading to the stress, rather than the event.
Frequently people engage in self-defeating thoughts that serve to play a vicious cycle over time leading to more stress. Some individuals are procrastinators, perfectionist, or people-pleasers — stress often runs high for these people.
How do you know your stress level is high? You have High Levels of Stress if you can answer “Yes” to more than two of the below questions.
- Do you experience symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches, and frequent illnesses?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating and remembering things?
- Do you lose your sense of humor?
- Do you feel nervous, worry, anger easily, or frustrate easily?
- Do you find yourself eating more when not hungry?
- Are there other negative habits such as smoking, drinking, or drug use that you use to cope with the demands of life?
At this point, you are actually becoming less efficient, less tolerant, and potentially burning some bridges.
- Regularly survey your life — your obligations, your relationships, your occupation, your leisure activities, your lifestyle, and your thoughts among others.
- Do you best to achieve a healthy balance between these aspects?
- Establish a healthy support system that will hold you accountable to some changes.
- Set some small goals in one of these areas so that you set yourself up to easily succeed.
- Some examples are: Meet one new person this week.
- Garden outside for one hour this week.
- Exercise 1 or 2 times this week.
- What happens when you set small, easily achievable goals is that you quickly experience success.
This will set in motion more positive thought patterns, increased motivation, and improved self-esteem.
How does one know when it is time to seek professional help? My answer to this question is actually quite simplistic. If you are experiencing some difficulty in one or more areas of your life as a result of stress it may be time to seek help. For example: If you feel your stress or anxiety is impacting your personal relationships with your spouse, children, or friends it may be time to seek help. If you find your stress or anxiety is impacting your ability to get your work completed; or possibly impacting your relationships with colleagues or supervisors it may be time to seek help. Often we are all aware of ways to manage stress, but sometimes we simply forget to take care of ourselves. Taking care of our self, saying “No” as needed, having a healthy support system, and leisure activities are all stress management techniques. If you think you do not have enough time to manage stress, it will eventually manage you.
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Article written by Brian Wright, LCSW