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Life Making You Tense?

Community News

Many students and school professionals are soon returning to the classroom for the 2022 – 2023 academic year. We know it doesn’t take long for the relaxation of summer to melt away and the stress to return. Add to that the challenges of balancing work and family obligations, negative media reports, and high prices. It’s helpful to spend a mindful moment thinking about stress and how to manage it in the year ahead.

What is stress?

Stress is a combination of feelings we experience when under pressure or threat. Some stress is actually good for encouraging us to get things done. If an important report is due first thing tomorrow, you’re going to get it done today, no matter what. Many people enjoy the exhilaration that comes with some stressful situations and actually perform better as a result. But constant or frequent intense stress can have a negative impact on our health and relationships.

Common symptoms

Unhealthy stress levels often manifest in our bodies. Stressed out people can have frequent headaches, chest pain, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, heartburn, feeling overly tired, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, and irritability.  People can also experience decline in work performance and issues within their interpersonal relationships. What’s worse is that the symptoms of stress often cause more stress!

Unhealthy stress is a proven contributor to chronic conditions such as asthma, substance use, insomnia, depression, pain, and even excess belly fat. It affects our hormones and nervous system. In fact, according to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), 75 to 90 percent of the physical complaints that send people to see their primary care physician are stress-related. The institute refers to stress as America’s #1 health problem.

Coping with stress

The following suggestions are useful for both relieving stress and preventing unhealthy stress in the future.

  • Our ability to manage stress depends, in part, on our physical health. Taking steps to improve wellbeing will pay off physically and mentally. Make adequate time for sleep, practice good nutrition, and find some enjoyable daily movement. 
  • Investigate relaxation techniques and give a few a try.
  • At the end of each day, take a moment to think about what you’ve accomplished and what you are grateful for.
  • Spend time with and thank those who provide emotional and practical support. Talk with them and share responsibilities.
  • Make time for fun. Remember, doing something for yourself is not selfish. It’s preparing you to be your best, so you can better face the world and be there for those who depend on you.
  • Use lists to set realistic goals for your day, week, and month.
  • Practice saying “no” in situations where you are asked to do something you are too busy for.
  • Accept that you can’t control everything and find ways to let go of worry about situations you cannot change.

If you feel overwhelmed by stress or you feel your health is suffering as a result of the stress in your life, be sure to see your healthcare provider or mental health practitioner for more guidance. Locally in Vermont, you can call United Counseling Service at 802-442-5491 to be connected with mental health services. You can also call 9-8-8 in a crisis.

Doris Russell is the Assistant Director of Outpatient Services at United Counseling Service in Bennington, Vermont.

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