You’re health doesn’t take a holiday.
Especially when it comes to stress – a normal physical response your body uses to protect itself for the daily changes faced in everyday life.
The American Institute for Stress reports that 75-90 percent of visits to the doctor are for stress-related problems.
“Stress affects everyone differently and can have a major impact on your physical and mental health, especially if you don’t identify your common stressors and are unable to avoid or manage them,” said Dr. Stuart Anfang, chief, Adult Psychiatry, Baystate Medical Center.
Symptoms of stress
Among some of the more significant physical health problems resulting from stress are: fatigue, high blood pressure, headache, heart disease, asthma, changes in appetite, obesity, diabetes, upset stomach and others. Psychological symptoms include depression, nervousness, anxiety, irritability and anger, lack of energy, and feeling as though you want to cry. People also report lying awake at night due to their stress, and there are some reports that stress can even cause early aging and premature death.
Money and work remain the top two sources of significant stress, with family responsibilities recently emerging as the third most common stressor, according to a recent Stress in America survey published by the American Psychological Association (APA).
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) lists three different types of stress, all of which carry physical and mental health risks:
- Routine stress related to the pressures of work, family and other daily responsibilities.
- Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce, or illness.
- Traumatic stress experienced in an event like a major accident, assault, or a natural disaster where one may be seriously hurt or in danger of being killed.
Of course, it’s also the time of year when “holiday stress” is in the news. And, as wonderful as the holidays can be, they can also be a stressful time for many who might be dealing with the loss of a loved one, the inability to afford presents, family stresses and just the general “hustle and bustle” of the holidays, noted Dr. Anfang.
“The good news is that you can control your stress with the proper tools and help, if needed, from a behavioral health specialist,” said Dr. Anfang.
The National Institute of Mental Health and Dr. Anfang offer the following tips which could help to lower your stress significantly and minimize any risks to your health in the quickly approaching New Year:
Tips to destress your life
- Get proper health care for existing or new health problems.
- Stay in touch with people who can provide emotional and other support. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations to reduce stress due to work burdens or family issues, such as caring for a loved one.
- Recognize signs of your body's response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
- Set priorities – decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload.
- Note what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
- Avoid dwelling on problems. If you can't do this on your own, seek help from a qualified mental health professional who can guide you.
- Exercise regularly – just 30 minutes per day of gentle walking can help boost mood and reduce stress.
- Schedule regular times for healthy and relaxing activities.
- Explore stress coping programs, which may incorporate meditation, yoga, tai chi, or other gentle exercises.
Need to seek help?
“While these simple strategies can help you manage your stress better and make you feel more relaxed and in control of your life, if you still feel overwhelmed by your stress, and if you are having suicidal thoughts or using drugs or alcohol to cope, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. There is nothing to be ashamed about,” said Dr. Anfang.
For immediate assistance with a behavioral health issue, call Baystate’s Central Intake line at 413-794-5555.