Stress is the accumulation of tension that you begin to feel, both physically and emotionally, as you try to adapt to the changes and demands in your environment. There are many stressful life events that we experience at one time or another, such as the death of a loved one or the loss of an important relationship. How you manage the stressful events in your life can impact both emotional and physical outcomes such as anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal distress, and more. If you do not learn to manage the stress in your life on a daily basis, it can have long-term consequences.
People experience stress in different ways and can at times be an adaptive response. For example, a small or manageable amount of stress might motivate one to achieve and could help them give their best performance. Even anticipated and happy events such as graduation or marriage can be stressful. How you cope emotionally and physically depends on how you perceive the stressful event and what coping skills you use on a daily basis.
What is our body’s reaction to stress?
Our stress reaction is triggered when we perceive danger, whether it is physical danger, emotional danger or both. Our bodies have what is known as a "fight or flight" response which helps us respond quickly if we are suddenly faced with danger. It’s helpful to keep in mind that our bodies have the same physiological response when we hear a frightening noise or fail to achieve something that is important to us.
Anything that we perceive as a threat stimulates our body to respond:
- the heart rate increases,
- blood pressure rises,
- hormones pour into the blood that send sugar to the muscles and brain to mobilize energy, and
- digestive processes are turned off so energy is available elsewhere.
These changes were designed to help us react physically but we do not always need to respond in this way. Therefore, our bodies begin to experience wear and tear when these processes are stimulated over and over again with no outlet.
What can we do to manage stress?
It is important to take some time to examine what is stressful to you and then devise a stress management plan:
- Ask yourself these reflective questions:
- What are the things I do or do not control over?
- How can I organize my time to reduce procrastination?
- How can I incorporate self-care such as physical activity, reading, meditation, or mindfulness into my daily routine?
- How can I hold this stressful event in perspective to avoid magnifying or minimizing the significance of the event?
- What boundaries can I set to keep from being overextended?
- How can I validate what I’m feeling and engage in problem-solving?
- How do I need when it’s time to ask for help?
The Counseling Center is available to help you develop a stress management plan; give us a call 410-617-2273 to schedule an appointment.