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Stress: Causes and Management

Cause and control of stress and anxiety

Stress causes more damage than just temporary discomfort

photo-blog-stress-raccoon-rides-alligatorI’ve attached a photo of a rare image of a raccoon who appears to be calmly hitching a ride on the back of an alligator in a Florida swamp.  I wanted a funny illustration to show that we can all learn to manage stress in a wide variety of situations. (In reality, he just hopped on then off again) See the story in the “Want to find out more” section listed below.

Stress is the underlying contributor of many ailments and conditions that make us ill. These include stroke, cancer and heart disease.  Existing disorders such as depression and anxiety are certainly exacerbated by stress. Stress can also be a trigger for flare-ups of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. Stress can also be a play a role in outbreaks of herpes, irritable bowel syndrome and some gastrointestinal problems.

 

The following are some of the possible causes, and methodologies to cope with stress in our lives:

  •     Do you leap to negative conclusions too quickly.  Do you catastrophize small mishaps?  Do you magnify problems out of proportion?  Are you often angry or irritated?  All of the above may be the result of cognitive distortions, simply put, wrong self-talk; things that you are doing to yourself.  Call a time out on your negative emotions.  Stop, breath, and reflect for a few moments.  You get to decide how you will respond; then, chose to remain calm and effective.
  •     Is your stress caused because you are unsure of how to do something?  Seek out the help of others.  Talk to a co-worker or boss who may be able to help.  Make a list of the skills required to complete the task and take an inventory of what skills you have and don’t have.  Acquire the skills through books, DVD’s, classes, or tutoring.  Taking action will give you a feeling of mastery and accomplishment.
  •     Are you overwhelmed with things that need to be done?  Attack one task at a time.  Make a list and triage what needs to be done first, second, third, etc.  Don’t try to do everything at the same time.  Seeing the items come off your list will lower your stress.
  •     If you are upset by hurt feelings and conflicts with others, instead of fuming or pouting, speak to those who can do something about it.  Wait till you’ve calmed down than state your upset and needs directly and unemotionally.  If you are really troubled by hurt feelings or conflicts think about taking some assertiveness training courses.

Practice learning to do Mini-relaxations.  You can learn these from books, DVD’s and some great apps that are now available on your smart phone. Listed below are some exercises you can try.

15 Minute Progressive Relaxation.

Sit down in a quiet place and check your body for tension. Take 3 slow deep breaths. Start at your head and notice if you’re feeling any tension in your forehead, eyes, your jaw, and focus on these areas one at a time.  Close your eyes tight hold for a few seconds than relax them and feel the tension flow out and away. 

Notice the difference between tension and relaxation.  Do the same with your jaws.  Clench them then relax and notice the relief you feel as the relaxation takes the place of the tightened muscles.  Allow your jaw to fall open slightly. Repeat the same exercise with your whole body.

Hunch your shoulders up to your neck; hold them for 5 seconds, than relax them slowly.  Feel the relaxation as you release the tension.  Do the same thing for your arms and hands.  Make a tight fist and flex the muscles and arms, hold them for 5 seconds than release them slowly, feeling the tension flow out and the peaceful relaxation take its place. 

Be sure to notice the difference between the tension you feel when you tighten your muscles and the peace that replaces it when you relax them.  Continue this process down to your abdomen, back, legs and feet.  It’s like taking a vacation in 15 minutes.
2 Minute breathing relaxation vacation

This involves a very slow countdown from 10 to zero. Start with the number 10, take a deep breath saying “10” to yourself as you fill your lungs with air. Exhale slowly.  On the next inhalation say “9” and inhale slowly and deeply.  Repeat the inhalation and exhalation slowly with each number until you reach zero.

Controlled breathing exercises are an effective technique to control stress and learn the peace and relief relaxation can bring.

Want to find out more?

bbc.com
Man captures photo of raccoon ‘riding an alligator’

www.anxietybc.com
How To Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation

harvard.edu
De-stressing in stressful times

mayoclinic.org
Stress Management

utexas.edu
Training: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Helen Trowsdale, President of AA Care Services, is a nurse administrator with over 30 years of experience as a BSN, psychiatric nurse, and geriatric care manager with adults as well as pediatrics in hospitals, private duty home health care agencies, and residential home health care. Her team of caregivers are dedicated to serving their clients with home care in San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Austin; providing clients with consistent, quality care while minimizing the number of caregivers in the home. Learn more about AA Care Services.

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