“I’m so stressed out!” If that phrase sounds all too familiar, you’re like many other adults: stressed on a regular basis. While you may not be able to completely remove stress from your life, how you deal with stress and how you react to stressful situations can make all the difference. But the first step is figuring out what causes you stress.
During the last 25 years, our leisure time has declined by 37% while our work week has increased by a full day. We pack as much as we can into every day—but at what price? Stressors in the workplace and at home can cause headaches, back pain, stomach upset, sleep problems, skin breakouts, weight gain or loss, anxiety, depression, mood swings, forgetfulness, relationship conflicts, and decreased productivity—just to name a few!
If stress isn’t managed carefully, it can snowball into a cycle of events—each issue increasing the severity of the next. Managing stress is all about breaking the cycle. To do that, you need to understand what’s causing your stress.
To identify the true source of your stress, answer these questions:
- Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy”)?
- Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal?
Another way to identifying stressors in your life (and how you deal with them) is by keeping a journal. Each time you feel stressed, write it down. As your daily log develops you will see patterns and common themes. Write down:
- What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally
- How you acted in response
- What you did to make yourself feel better
The more you understand your stressors, the better you will be at creating healthy solutions. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun—plus the ability to hold up under pressure.
It is normal to feel stress as a reaction to life's events and challenges. But over time, the body's response to continued stress can lead to health issues. Unrelieved tension can build up, provoking various unhealthy symptoms.
Immediate physiological (the way your body functions) symptoms of stress may include:
- Hyperventilation (rapid, shallow breathing)
- Sweating a lot
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased urination
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
Chronic stress (stress over a long period of time) can cause:
- Backaches and neck pain
- Migraines and headaches
- Sleep and appetite disturbances
- Gastrointestinal problems (like chronic heartburn, irritable bowel or ulcers)
- Skin diseases and problems
- Cardiovascular problems (like high blood pressure)