August 2, 2022 by Dr. Christine C. Marrero
Basics of De-Stressing: Identifying, Resolving Stress Symptoms One Step at a Time
In today’s rapidly changing world, stress is all around us and it’s hard to avoid some form of stress sometime during the day. “Anything can happen that can trigger your stress levels and feelings of lack of control,” says Beth Ruhmann, certified therapeutic recreation specialist with Baptist Health’s Community Health. “If you’re a perfectionist like me, it’s hard to just go with the flow.”
The pandemic has taken its toll on stress levels for most people.
“And nobody can deny that during the past two and a half years, we’ve been taxed with an overload of unending stress,” adds David Weiss, LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor), and behavioral health specialist, with Baptist Health’s Community Health. “While it’s a good idea to step back and take a breather when you’re stressed, sometimes the stress just seems overwhelming.”
Constant stress is not good for your health, he warns. When we experience stress, our bodies go into a state of fight, flight or freeze (do nothing) to protect us from harm. It is a survival skill, which puts us into a state of arousal while our body is trying to address the feeling. It takes 20 to 60 minutes to get out of the arousal state and get back to a normal place. It’s not quick and you have to work at it and get rid of those aroused chemicals.
“We are all under the misconception that stress is going to relieve itself if we just go with the flow, take a step back and re-evaluate the cause of the stress,” Mr. Weiss says. “But this is not necessarily the case. A little bit of stress is good and distancing yourself can work, as well as taking some time to think about it and choosing a better option”.
Stress manifests itself differently in everyone. Some people become energetic when stressed, while others experience increased weight gain and high blood pressure. Ms. Ruhmann advises: If you go through long periods of time filled with stress, then it will affect your physical and mental health.
Some of the causes of stress:
- Something new
- Something unexpected
- Something that threatens our sense of self
- Lack of control
The warning signs of distress for adults, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA 2022) are:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Stomach pains
- Low energy level
Identify your symptoms and try to resolve your stress, one step at a time, Mr. Weiss suggests. Find that magic thing that helps you reduce your stress. It can be as simple as leaving earlier for a meeting, so you won’t be stressed by the traffic.
Not only do you want to be able to manage stress for yourself, but for your kids as well — since kids can’t verbalize their stress. Look for the warning signs of distress for children and teenagers from SAMHSA 2022 and seek help if necessary.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Becoming aggressive
- Becoming withdrawn
- Defiant towards authority
We all have our own personal management style to handle stress. As a former smoker, Mr. Weiss says he smoked to manage stress until he felt the harmful physical effects of stress and smoking. He quit smoking and needed to find a new coping skill because “it’s easier to replace a behavior, rather than eliminate a behavior.” He gave up cigarettes and started going to the gym, a much healthier stress manager.
Both therapists agree: Dealing with stress may be consuming at times and your reactions may be genetic or learned. They urge you to stop looking for a medical fix. Instead, they say, try to look inward and see what’s happening inside your body and be aware of what could happen long term if you don’t deal with the stress now. Eighty percent of doctor’s visits are stress related.
“To manage stress in a healthier way, make a list of what causes stress in your life,” Ms. Ruhmann advises. “Identify what you can control and what you can’t control, include your thoughts about things you say to yourself that are true and not true.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests the following effective coping skills:
- Practice Self Care – eating healthy, exercising, getting sufficient sleep
- Engage in enjoyable activity (kayaking, painting, yoga, etc.)
- Take breaks from watching and reading news stories
- Develop a normal routine
According to Mr. Weiss: “It will take 21 days to develop a new routine and it’s easy to fall into the trap of learned helplessness, where you say — ‘no matter what I do, I can’t fix this’ — which is when you need to change your thinking, challenge yourself, and react in a way that will enable you to reduce your stress.”
There is no “simple quick fix” to relieving stress, he adds. “Identify one stress trigger. And with time, you will be able to resolve the other stresses in your life. If you take small measures to reduce stress, slowly but surely your stress levels will decrease, and you’ll have a much more fulfilling.”