April 05, 2004

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Dawn-Elise Snipes (Always) Thinking About Wellness
with Dawn-Elise Snipes

Signs of - and solutions for - stress

We have all seen the t-shirts and coffee mugs that attempt to define stress, but what really are the signs and symptoms of too much stress and how can we cope? Read on to find out three easy ways to quickly reduce your stress.

In and of itself, stress is not always bad. In it's broadest sense, stress is anything that places a demand on us. Examples of good stress can be problem solving, exercise, feeling compassion for a friend and motivation. Yes, motivation. Motivation is merely a healthy dose of "stress" that gets us to do something.

Signs of Too Much Stress:
Physical
* Changes in sleep patterns—sleeping more or insomnia
* Changes in eating patterns—eating to comfort or loss of appetite
* Reduced sex drive
* Getting sick more easily and staying sick longer
* Increased blood pressure
* Difficulty recovering after an injury
* Difficulty recovering after working out
* Increased resting heart rate
* Lack of care in your appearance

Environmental
* Lack of care of your surroundings

Emotional
* Depression
* Anxiety
* Irritability

Mental
* Confusion
* Forgetfulness
* Difficulty Concentrating
* Increased mistakes/accidents

Social
* Withdrawal/isolation and/or surrounding yourself with similarly miserable people
* Lack of patience/tolerance (see irritability)

Occupational
* Increased on the job accidents/mistakes
* Decreased morale/poor attitude
* Reduced productivity
* Increased use/abuse of sick days
* Increased complaints against you

One of the basic principles of wellness theory is that we have an exhaustible amount of energy, like a car's gas tank. Unlike a car, we cannot just fill-up in 2 minutes, it takes hours or days to rebuild our energy reserves if we exhaust them. The key is to know how much stress we can handle and to maintain that level by eliminating unnecessary stressors and reducing the impact of inevitable stressors.

Make a list of all of the things you would call stressors in each of the following areas: emotional, mental, social, physical, and occupational. Now go back and add to that list all of the things that you have to do. Anything that takes up your time is a stressor.

The first key to stress management is time management and the key to time management is to eliminate, delegate and prioritize. Go back over your list and eliminate the sources of stress that are unnecessary—ask yourself "Is this something I have to do" or "Is this person/activity a positive influence or a source of distress?" Now, go over the list again and prioritize. Which things must be done? Which things would you really like to get done? Which things would be nice to get done, but if they do not, it is not a crisis? Finally, delegate. Your family and friends cannot read your mind. Most people are happy to help, if they are just given some direction. Make a list of things each person can do to take the load off of you. Give it to them and ask for assistance.

Secondly, coping means changing a situation or the way you feel about or react to a situation. I highly recommend the "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" series by Richard Carlson. Simple things you can do are, before you get stressed out, ask yourself "Six months from now will this matter?" or "If this does not get done, what are the real consequences?"

You will find that we usually make mountains out of molehills. If you choose to change a situation, make sure it is a situation you can change and you are acting from your head and not your emotions. Remember to choose your battles wisely, make a plan and evaluate the pros and cons of the plan before you act.

For example, if you have an incompetent supervisor---you can transfer, file complaints or just recognize that he or she is incompetent and, as long as it does not directly jeopardize your health or safety, let their stupidity roll off your back. Finally, and possibly most importantly comes from the book "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" Sharpen the Saw! It may not seem like you have time to take care of yourself. In reality, you will be much more productive and effective if you are healthy, happy and rested. You must schedule in relaxation, physical activity, and fun with family and friends.

Now that you know how to identify signs of stress and some easy steps to take to remedy that stress, try an experiment:
Look at the list above.
Place a check mark next to each sign of stress you are experiencing.
Follow the suggestions above for one month.
Review your signs of stress.
You will be surprised how a few small changes can really help you start feeling better.

About the author


Add your comments to the discussion on Dawn Elise Snipes' column in the Wellness Issues forum.

Contact Dawn-Elise: wellness@policeone.com







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