Stress is a physical and emotional response to change – whether the change is positive (for example getting promoted, married or forming a new relationship) --or the change is negative (getting fired, losing a loved one, becoming ill or injured). Stress activates the "fight or flight syndrome," a physiological process that supplies the extra adrenaline, strength, energy and alertness to meet a challenge or danger.

Increased heart rate, blood pressure, stomach and muscle tension are responses to a "crisis," that should subside after the crisis is resolved. Excessive and prolonged stress may result in physical and psychological illness.

Stress Test: Do you suffer from any of the following symptoms?

  • Problems with eating (overeating or lack of appetite)
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs
  • Watching more TV
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
  • Increased irritation, frustration or anger toward others
  • Avoiding tasks and responsibilities; procrastination; chronic lateness
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Neglecting your appearance
  • Lack of motivation, increased boredom and fatigue – "the blahs"
  • Difficulty concentrating, paying attention, getting organized
  • Urges to cry or run away
  • Feeling unhappy or sad for no apparent reason
  • Feelings of weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, frequent worry, nervousness, or "anxiety attacks"
  • More than occasional feelings of loneliness, rejection, powerlessness and hopelessness
  • Frequent headaches, backaches, muscle aches, stomach tension
  • High blood pressure, clammy hands, chest pain, racing heartbeat
  • Frequent indigestion, constipation, diarrhea or urination
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Accident-proneness; many minor injuries
  • If you have checked any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from the results of chronic stress. A medical check-up is advisable for physical symptoms. Therapy with a trained, experienced professional can help you change your internal and external responses to sources of stress, improve your quality of life, and may ultimately extend your lifespan.

    You can’t eliminate stress from your life, but you can change the way you respond to it, and learn to change your negative feelings by:

  • Eliminating destructive and self-defeating thought patterns
  • Setting up personal goals and rewards
  • Identifying realistic expectations
  • Learning to accept what you can not change
  • Learning time management
  • Improving communication and interpersonal skills
  • Learning to say "no" and other assertiveness skills
  • Increasing social support
  • Learning healthy coping skills and tension-relievers
  • Protecting yourself against future stress
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