How to Prevent, Reduce, and Cope with Stress

There are two basic types of stress in everyone’s life. There are the negative stressors that everyone is familiar with such as financial difficulties, frustration, pitfalls and deadlines. However, there are also positive stressors like having ‘butterflies’ about a new relationship or being excited for a new challenge or opportunity. Both of these types of stress have similar effects upon the body. Without proper stress management any brand of stress, be it negative or positive, has the potential to be taxing and even harmful to an individual.

We all know that high levels of stress can leave you feeling jittery or restless, often leading to anxiety, irritability, insomnia, or other such problems. Believe it or not, the absence of stress is also harmful. Not having any stress can act as a depressant, making an individual listless and unmotivated or dejected. The ultimate goal is not to eliminate all forms of stress, but to control and manage it in an appropriate manner.

Unfortunately some people attempt to cope with stress in counter-productive ways. A few examples of unhealthy stress management include using alcohol, drugs and food as coping mechanisms, avoidance and acting-out towards others. While these things may all afford temporary relief, the outcome is short lived and carries negative consequences.

Stress, if gone unchecked can result in the appearance of serious physical symptoms as well. Some of the numerous physical indications of stress include acne, high blood pressure, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, and severe weight fluctuations to name just a few. These and other physical manifestations of stress can in turn become stressors themselves. If proper stress management is not applied this can often become a vicious circle.

There are numerous healthy and constructive methods of stress management available today. There are lifestyle changes such as simplifying daily routines, practiced relaxation, and deep breathing. Another tool is to begin keeping a stress journal to help pinpoint negative influences on day-to-day life. Some people find that even the act of accepting and acknowledging stress is enough to provide relief. For others minor adjustments and sometimes even major overhauls must be made in order to lead the fulfilling and happier lives they are hoping for.

For many individuals these and other related methods do not produce the desired response or alleviation. For many people, the stressors in life are too severe and/or too chronic in nature and the underlying causes of the stress need further attention. This is not uncommon and does not indicate a failure of any kind.

In many cases, often the best option available is to seek the help of a professional counselor who specializes in stress management. A therapist can help assess the sources and manifestations of the stress, explore alternatives for encountering and dealing with the stressors and assist in using new tools to turn everyday obstacles into stepping stones. This professional will be able to offer advice and coping mechanisms as well as provide ways to curb frustrations. Counselors can also suggest resources such as support groups or classes. Additionally, a mental health professional has the ability to refer patients to a physician or psychiatrist for medication if it is deemed necessary. Perhaps the most important advantage when working with a counselor one-on-one is having the ability to create a plan that is best for the individual at hand. Learning and applying tools that will help manage the stress of today as well as provide preventative measures for obstacles in the future is key to a successful and healthy stress reduction plan. Recognizing your struggle and asking for help may be the first step for a healthier life!

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