Coping with Stress: Part 1

As I watch the news and listen to my clients, I am able to see how stress is affecting so many of us because of stressors we encounter in our everyday life.  I turned on the news this morning, and I realized that I needed a break. I wanted to hear something else, so I put on some music and then went for a walk.. This is what I needed to do. It was a conscious choice to take some time and remove myself from the news and to do something in my life that can bring peace to me because I felt the tension inside my body, and I wanted a break and to feel a calmness within. I know some of you may be saying well that is hiding, or distracting myself from something that is necessary to watch, but I look at it as taking care of myself. I had self compassion for myself that I needed a pause, and I needed to change the pattern of walking in the door and immediately putting on the news. 

Stress can impact us all in different ways, and I was beginning to feel the anxiety in my body of listening to another day of news and seeing the barriers that are affecting us personally and globally in our day to day lives. So I took a break!

We all experience stress, and it affects us physically, mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally. These effects are messages that we are receiving some kind of stress buildup from our bodies, and they are telling us to wake up and that we need to begin to use coping resources. We need to change the pattern. I changed my pattern by turning off the TV. What do you need to do?

Stress can be experienced by the body, not only as stress-related illness as a result of a prolonged stress response, but it can also cause inflammation in the body.. This is one reason why when we are under stress we want to eat healthy foods and make time to get proper rest, nutrition, exercise, and find time to connect with people that we care about and also take care of ourselves. 

Some physical changes that may occur with prolonged stress can be sleep pattern changes, restlessness, fatigue, changes in our digestive systems, loss of sexual drive, headaches, aches and pains in our body, infections, dizziness, fainting, sweating, and trembling.. Even tingling hands and feet . We notice different temperatures in our bodies, one minute we may be cold, the next really warm. Also we notice heart palpitations, missed heartbeats, and at times, we have trouble catching our breath.

Stress affects us emotionally too, and may take the form of negative mood states, such as anger, impatience, depression, frustration, edginess or boredom. I was experiencing an edginess this morning when I turned on the news, and I just did not want to start the day with this feeling of anxiety in my body. When we experience these different mood states, sometimes we having trouble getting going during the day, or we become apathetic, lethargic, or defeated. Sometimes a helplessness sets in, and we can even begin to feel paranoid, or we shut down and don’t want to engage in the world. Stress can lead us to feel alienated from everything and everyone. We can feel hypersensitive to our friends, family, co-workers, etc…, and sometimes we then experience a more extreme emotional reaction to simple frustrations. We then start to feel vulnerable and fragile, which can lead us to feel sad for no apparent reason. 

It is important to know that changes can occur in our brain as a result of the stress we encounter and interfere with our higher functioning ability, such as the ability to think, to reason, to plan, to make choices. We get upset, and we become flooded with our emotions and at times cannot think clearly.  It is important to know that when we are stressed, our memory is also affected by the stress response because stress can cause certain chemicals to be released and these chemicals are responsible for transferring information into short-term memory and then into long term memory. This is why when I work with people, and many people remember past events differently,  I explain that we may all experience and see things differently from one another.  What is important is to honor and respect how each person remembers the event, but it does no good to get into a screaming match and saying my way is right. All that does is push someone away and not validate their experience.

We may also see changes in our normal patterns of behavior in response to the stressors we are experiencing. And remember do not compare what you experiences as a stressor with someone else. We are all different. and cope differently and some of us have a higher ability to tolerate stress than others. 

Signals you may be in a stress state:

  • Appetite changes, eating too much or too little and not being mindful about what we eat.
  • Eating disorders , like Bulimia, or Anorexia
  • Increased drinking or smoking or always reaching for some kind of pill to calm us down or get rid of the pain.
  • Restlessness, Fidgeting, nail biting,
  • Worrying about everything with no real information to back up what you think might happen.

Our bodies are similar to an oil gauge in your car. When everything is fine, the oil gauge does not light up, when things are not fine, and something is not working properly , the gauge light up. The same is true for our bodies.   When there is a problem, like too much stress, our bodies let us know. But do you wake up and pay attention? If you don’t pay attention, then several things may start to occur to let you know that you are reaching a stress overload. 

Wake up and pay attention!

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