Taking Action to Manage Your Stress
BENEFITS OF LOWERING YOUR STRESS
When you reduce your stress, you not only help yourself, you help others around you. Because stress can affect your mood and emotions, your behaviour can change and negatively impact those close to you. Stress can make you irritable and more prone to anger. When stress becomes severe, you risk taking out your frustrations on family members and friends.
Keeping your stress under control can reduce the chances that it will affect your loved ones. At the same time, your risk for anxiety and depression will diminish. Several benefits of lowering your stress include:
- Better self-esteem
- Improved sleep patterns
- More energy
- Better controlled blood pressure
- Regular heart rate
- Normal appetite
- Better concentration
- Uplifted mood
Just as the stress you experience influences others, a calm and more positive orientation impacts the people around you. When you reduce your stress, your friends and loved ones are more likely to enjoy your company and help you maintain a sense of well-being.
Preventing Stressful Situations
Stress happens. It’s a fact of life. Although you cannot live a life that is entirely stress-free, you can do your best to avoid stressful situations. For example:
- Learn to say no
- Avoid overscheduling
- Prepare (as best you can) for the events or moments you know will be stressful
- Set realistic goals
Click here to understand one of the most important things you can do for your stress, courtesy of Myfavoritemedicine.com
Management and Coping Strategies
What You Can Do if You’re Feeling Excessive Stress
How you think about an event — and the emotions attached to your thought processes — determines its impact on your health. This means any steps you take toward a more positive outlook will tend to decrease your level of stress and improve your health. At the same time, it’s important to find specific coping strategies to manage the stress in your life.
Learn ways to manage and control stress by:
- Identifying what causes you stress
- Finding ways to reduce the amount of stress
- Creating a healthy plan to relieve stress and its harmful effects
Managing your stress starts with these basic guidelines:
- Be physically active every day. This will help reduce the effects of stress.
- Identify and maintain your strong support networks and good family relationships.
- Get more information on stress management.
- Ask for help if stress becomes a concern.
Coping with Stress from the Heart and Stroke Foundation, includes skills and practical techniques for reducing stress, as well as information on finding help and different options for treatment.
What You Can Do if You Are Feeling Anxious
Learn to recognize when you are starting to feel anxious and plan ways to manage your feelings. Learn new coping strategies to handle anxious situations instead of avoiding them. For example, practice slow, deep breathing, among these other strategies:
- Imagine scenes that are relaxing and pleasant for you.
- Learn relaxation skills (tense and release the muscles throughout your body).
- Distract yourself from the thoughts or physical symptoms that contribute to your anxiety (count backward from 100 by three).
- Do something pleasurable, like reading a funny book or getting a back rub.
- Share your fears and worries with someone you trust.
When facing stressful situations, it helps to be prepared. Think of solutions to problems that cause you anxiety before the problems arise. When you’re in a stressful situation, try letting go of the things that are beyond your control.
Consider participating in a support program to educate yourself, alleviate some worries, and get answers to your questions and concerns. If you need to, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional (social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist) about proven treatments for anxiety.
What You Can Do if You Are Feeling Depressed
Negative thinking is often involved in depression. Getting help to learn new ways of thinking can be beneficial. Seek help by talking with your family and friends and joining support groups. You can also talk to your doctor or a mental health professional (social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist) about proven treatments and strategies for coping with depression.
Engage in pleasant activities — even when you don’t feel like it. This can help improve your mood. Regular exercise can also positively affect your outlook. Set realistic goals for yourself and celebrate when you achieve them. To prove to yourself that you’re making gains, record your daily activities.
Make sure you take time away from daily stresses. Consider participating in a support program to educate yourself and gain confidence.
This video offers tips on managing stress, anxiety, and depression (University of Ottawa Heart Institute).
Although medication is a method of managing stress, it treats the symptoms of depression, not the causes. You have a better chance of treating the underlying causes of depression if you also seek professional help. For example, a mental health professional can assist you in making the necessary cognitive and behavioural changes to improve your emotional well-being. Medication combined with other strategies, like psychotherapy, is often the most effective approach to reducing feelings of depression.
If you take medication, how long you'll need to do so depends on the stage and severity of your depression. You may be prescribed medication for six months or much longer to help reduce the risk of relapse.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
Stress does not require a diagnosis because it is not a mental illness. Rather, prolonged stress poses a danger to your mental health that can eventually lead to illness. Because stress is such an individual experience, it’s important you identify what your own personal life stressors are so that you might better address and treat them.
For general anxiety, diagnosis begins with you. Try to identify whether you have experienced any of the following on most days for six months or more:
- Frequent worrying
- Intense focus on certain life situations (work or finances)
- Distress or burden from constant worry
If have experienced any of these, it’s important you seek advice from your doctor or a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist who can provide appropriate options for treatment.
This online tool at Here to Help can evaluate your risk for depression and anxiety. Please note that it is intended as an educational aid and is not designed to provide a clinical diagnosis.
General anxiety can be treated with coping strategies and cognitive therapy, which promote positive thinking and help change anxious thoughts into more positive emotions. More severe anxiety disorders may require medication therapy using antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.
Diagnosing depression usually begins with talking to your doctor about any symptoms you are experiencing. Because your doctor may have no idea you’re depressed, it’s important you tell him or her what you’re feeling.
Effective treatment options include cognitive therapy, medication, and supportive counselling. A combination of these may achieve the best results for reducing your feelings of depression.
If your feelings of depression are particularly intense or have lasted a long time, you may benefit from consultation with a doctor. If your depression includes physical symptoms, such as sleeping difficulties, loss of appetite, or fatigue, then it is important to speak with a doctor. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed under these circumstances.
Antidepressants work by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain known to cause depression. There are many different antidepressants available and some people need to try a few to find the right one for their particular symptoms.
While antidepressants seem to be helpful for some people, most of these drugs come with a number of side effects, such as:
- Diminished sex drive
- Dry mouth
- Weight changes
Keep in mind that finding the right antidepressant and dosage can take time, and you might not feel the effects of the medication for two to four weeks.