STRESS: RECOGNIZING AND MANAGING IT
Since April is Stress Awareness Month, I thought it would be the perfect time to write a little bit on stress, and share some tips on how to manage it.
You hear the word stress used almost on a daily basis, but, do you know what it is?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are three types of stress: acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is a short term, and the most common type of stress, usually manifesting from the demands of the recent past or near future. Common symptoms of acute stress include irritability, anxiety, depression, tension headaches, heartburn, migraine, high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat.
Episodic acute stress is when acute stress is experienced frequently. This could be applied to either those that consistently take on more than they could handle, and those that worry often. Common symptoms include migraines, tension headaches, hypertension, chest pains and could eventually lead to heart disease.
Chronic stress is one that almost never goes away. An individual is at risk of chronic stress when they have no perceived way out of an arousal-inducing situation, for example, being in a war. Chronic stress may also arise out of a traumatic event, such as a car accident. Chronic stress could lead to suicide, heart attacks, stroke, violence, and other life-threatening situations.
The first step to managing your stress is to identify that you are stressed. The next step is identifying your source of stress. Have you had any recent changes in your life? Are there upcoming exams? Are you having financial issues? Are you having problems with your spouse? These are a short list of potential stressors in any individual’s life. The next step is asking yourself why this is a stressor for you. It could be that problems with your spouse may lead to a divorce. Or financial problems may lead to losing your home. The next steps intertwine together: finding a way to relieve the symptoms of the stress, finding a way to address the cause of the stress, and then assessing whether those solutions worked for you. If not, it is a matter of going back to the drawing board and trying a new way.
The Concordia University student health centre has listed common practices to tackle relieving the symptoms of stress, which include:
- Deep breathing
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Other types of distraction, such as playing with your pets, reading a book, or hobbies
Keep in mind that relieving the symptoms of stress are a short-term solution.
They have also put together a list of common practices to tackle relieving the causes of stress is acquiring, which include:
- Budgeting skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Time management skills
- Conflict resolution skills
- Academic skills
- Other skills that could be acquired through practice or with professional help
University and college websites are an excellent resource for finding tips on stress management, as there are diverse populations attending these institutions. I also recommend looking for local resources. Many doctors offices, gyms, and community centres will offer information on programs you could partake in. Remember that no two people are alike, and that different methods of stress relief will work for different individuals. If you find that you are having difficulty managing your stress, reach out to a counsellor for help.