Ways to cope with stress

Heather Gardner

Stress is part of everyone’s life and is, unfortunately, something that none of can entirely avoid. It can enter our lives as a result of a change in our circumstances; this change is often reflected in our body and mind to assist us in the unexpected challenge we suddenly face. Or it may be a result of a difficult situation that has developed slowly over time but is now becoming uncomfortable or painful for us to handle.

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In your life you will see the following areas impacted by stress; physical, social and psychological:

Physical: an increase or decrease in sleeping or appetite from your typical routine, an increase in substance abuse or dependence, and a decrease in hygiene.

Social: withdrawing or isolating more than usual, feeling lonely, impatience, lack of empathy, difficulty communication with others, poor boundaries and mistrust of others.

Psychological impact of stress may include: depressive symptoms, apathy, anger, frustration, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating.

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In your professional life you may notice a change in the following areas: a decrease in your confidence of your ability to do your job, decreased quality of the work performance, avoidance of job duties, low motivation, decrease in productivity, negative attitude at work, withdrawal from your colleagues, impatience with others, as well as an increase in tardiness or absenteeism.

Here are some quick and easy questions to ask yourself to check your stress level:

Am I displaying any of the above symptoms mentioned above? How many?

How much are they interfering in my personal and professional functioning?

Are there any traumatic events from my past that may be triggered right now?

If you said yes to one or a few of these, try a few of these tips to help manage your stress. Stay energized and productive by taking take short breaks periodically throughout the day- stand up, stretch, and breathe deeply for a minute or two. Short breaks between tasks can be particularly effective, helping you feel like you’ve been able to complete something before going on to the next task. Also, find healthy ways to manage stress by working to replace unhealthy coping strategies, such as eating junk food, smoking or drinking alcohol with healthy behaviors, like exercise, meditation or talking with friends and family.

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Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Take it slow and focus on changing one behavior at a time. Some behaviors are very difficult to change and may require the help of a licensed mental health professional.