DR. NEAL HOUSTON

Adult Integrative/Behavioral Health Specialist

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to Change Bad Stress Into Good Stress

Some stress is normal and even useful. Stress can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad effects. It can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you edgy, moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school.

What happens when you are stressed?

Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the "fight-or-flight" stress response.

There are certain physical signals and signs that provides a warning to the body's habitual response to stress that it is becoming destructive. If people can learn to recognize these signals, the signs, and to change their characteristic responses to daily tensions. When this is done they then can endure higher levels of stress and perhaps even profit from them.

The telltale signals:
  • Cold hands, especially if one is colder than the other.
  • Indigestion, diarrhea, to frequent urination.
  • Being susceptible to every cold or virus that goes around ( this could mean that the physical strains of distress are weakening your immune system)
  • Muscle spasms or a soreness or tightness in the jaw, back of the neck, shoulders, or lower back.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Headaches, tiredness, sleeping too much or sleeping too little.
  • Becoming suddenly accident-prone

When someone recognizes any of these signals, They should stop would they are doing, if only for two or three minutes, take several deep breaths, and try to relax. If the tension also shows itself through tapping shoes or drumming of the fingers, They should stand up, stretch, try do a few jumping jacks or take a brisk walk around the office or around the block, all the while trying to look at everything around you as if it was for the first time.

The most important key to defusing stress is to become conscious of that inner voice each person has inside. Human beings are constantly assessing themselves and their environment and reporting silently to themselves.
  •  For example you may say to yourself  "this looks threatening"; "I don't think I can handle it. I certainly can't handle it without a cigarette.";  "Am I going to get this done in time?"
Many people are not conscious of this internal voice commentating, but if a person learns to listen to the way they talk to themselves, they may find that they are usually not being as encouraging as they could be - that they are actually making matters worse for themselves.
  • For example: Instead of standing in line at the bank - checking your watch and listening to your inner voice computing how long it has taken "those incompetent tellers" to handle each transaction, while worrying about how late you will be to your appointment, and wondering why these people in front of you didn't get cash for the weekend yesterday, you should make your inner voice be soothing and calm: "I don't like waiting in this line, but there is nothing I can do about it now, so I might as well relax. Look how tense everyone else is getting. It's kind of funny to see them look so anxious."
Another trick is to stop thinking about time. It may be slipping by, but counting the seconds only takes away energy and activates the stress response. Dr. Meyer Friedman and Dr. Ray H. Rosenman, the authors of - Type A Behavioral and Your Heart - found that time consciousness, or "Hurry Sickness", was a key personality trait of the heart attack prone Type A personality. One stress researcher says she found that simply removing her wristwatch and not looking at her phone for the time for several weeks greatly reduced the time pressures she felt.

To convert bad stress too good, remember the following:
  • Before a expected stressful event, visualize what could take place. Such a rehearsal in your mind will make the event seem familiar, helping you to relax and handled the situation with confidence.
  • During a tense situation, such as taking a test or meeting a tight deadline, try talking nice to yourself, don't dwell on poor preparation or performance. Instead, you should make one's inner voice offer praise for what you did accomplish thus far, and reassurance that the situation isn't so bad after all.
  • Afterwards, relax and enjoy the relief of the burden's being lifted. Even if things didn't go well, avoid over excessive self-criticism. This refreshing interlude can help strengthen the system to better resist the damage on future stress.
"Any bad stress can be turned around", insist Dr. Kenneth Greenspan, "if you take steps to make yourself feel that you are controlling your life and it is not controlling you."

We all have stress sometimes. For some people, it happens before having to speak in public. For other people, it might be before a first date. What causes stress for you may not be stressful for someone else.

Sometimes stress is helpful - it can encourage you to meet a deadline or get things done. But long-term stress can increase the risk of diseases like depression, heart disease and a variety of other problems. A stress-related illness called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops after an event like war, physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster.

What relieves stress is not the same for everyone. Making certain lifestyle changes is the best start.
  • Start with eating a well-balanced, healthy diet as well as getting enough sleep and exercise, also, limit caffeine and alcohol intake and don't use nicotine, cocaine, or other street drugs.
  • Finding healthy, fun ways to cope with stress helps most people. You can learn and practice ways to help you relax. Find out about yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
  • Take breaks from work. Make sure to balance fun activities with your job and family duties. Schedule some leisure time every day. Spend time with people you enjoy, including your family.
  • Try learning to make things with your hands, playing an instrument, or listening to music.
  • Think about what might be giving you stress. Keep a diary of what is going on when you have these feelings.
  • Then, find someone you trust who will listen to you. Often just talking to a friend or loved one is all that you need to feel better. Most areas also have support groups and hotlines that can help.

If you have chronic stress, the best way to deal with it is to take care of the underlying problem.
Mental Health Counseling can help you find ways to relax and calm down. Medicines may also help.

Ask your health care provider if any drugs or medicines you are taking can cause anxiety.

Common effects of stress ...
... On your body... On your mood... On your behavior
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
  • Overeating or Under-eating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social withdrawal

Source: American Psychological Association's "Stress in America" report, 2010