MaryLynn Marshburn, health educator with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Health and Human Services Division, presented a class on stress management tips and techniques for interested Community members and employees on [January 23] at the Health and Human Services Intake Center.
Stress is something that we can never get away from; it is always part of our lives. But many of us don’t really know how to cope with it. Stress can be very dangerous physically and emotionally and will take a toll on your home life and career if you do not know how to manage it.
Marshburn noted that people experience both good stress and bad stress. The different types of stress include environmental, physical, mental and social.
Some stress is temporary and some is ongoing. Small amounts of good stress can actually be helpful, such as the stress involved with preparing for an important job interview, a presentation at school or a sports event. That kind of stress can give you extra energy to help you do well.
“With positive stress, our bodies will get the same physiological response as if it would if we were in danger; for example, when playing in a basketball tournament, you feel more alive and alert,” said Marshburn. But when dealing with this temporary stress—another example would be working on a project to meet a deadline—once you complete it, then that stress is over and you know it won’t come around anymore. You have some relief and some time before the next challenge comes.
But negative stress that never lets up, such as worrying about money, your health or family, can wear you down over time and have negative health effects.
Learn to De-Stress
The more stress we have, the more we need to take care of our body through exercise, healthy eating and rest.
Marshburn said, “If your stress is at the point that it is causing dizziness, aches and pains, muscle tension or forgetfulness, you need to teach yourself how to ‘de-stress’ yourself with health breaks.”
At work, try some breathing exercises, taking slow, deep breaths. Other ways to relax include progressive tensing and relaxing of your muscles, a “mini meditation” at your desk or going for a quick walk outside to get some fresh air.
Sitting for long periods of time can cause stress if you do not get up and move around. The brain needs the blood to flow in order for you to think right and be at your best. Drink a cup of herbal tea or talk with someone about your projects so everything doesn’t build up in your mind.
To relieve stress at home, you can curl up with a good book, call a friend, get a massage, play with your pet or take a warm bath. “The important thing to remember is to do something to calm and relax you,” said Marshburn.
Change Your Thinking
The next time you find yourself getting stressed, don’t deal with it the same way you did last time; try something different. “It’s easy to be stuck in the same old thinking,” said Marshburn. “But you can ‘reframe’ and look at things differently in order to experience them as less stressful. Reframing helps you maintain a more optimistic view of things.”
That same old way of thinking can really hold you back, whether it’s fear of getting a new job, getting out of a bad relationship or whatever you are stressed-out about. Maybe talk it over with friends and elders to get their perspectives. Sharing your feelings is always a good idea.
If you find it difficult to talk with someone, write your feelings down instead. Many experts say that keeping a “gratitude journal,” where you make a list of things that you are thankful for in your everyday life, can be very helpful.
“A gratitude list will help you recognize that there are things to be thankful for and good things that come out of your day,” said Elsie Nelson who is also a Community Health educator. “This will make you feel in control of your life.”
Marshburn explained that people who practice this will feel happier and more satisfied with their life overall. “It is very easy to get tunnel vision and concentrate on the negative, and not to realize that you were able to eat food today or go to work or have a place to sleep at night.”
Change Your Lifestyle
To make changes to your lifestyle, be organized, set priorities, plan ahead and be realistic about goals. Be sure to take health breaks before beginning tasks and always keeps things in perspective.
Look for the lessons from the issue that brought on your stress. “Maybe there’s a lesson, and once we get it, we might feel less stressed and work on the positive strategies out there,” said Marshburn. For example, someone whose stress is caused by a bad performance review at work might take a lesson to become more organized or learn a new software program so they can get their projects done on time. Then, with the job performance improved, the next review will be positive and that source of stress is eliminated.
Every day, many of us are exposed to emotional strain and tension through stressful situations portrayed in the media. “Every day we are connected to the media, on television or the Internet, and we see the violence that is out there. We don’t hear it once, we hear it repeatedly, and with more details each time,” said Nelson. Taking a media break for one week—turning off the news and violent entertainment such as horror movies or video games, particularly for children—can decrease your stress level.
Everybody needs some kind of stress in their lives, and different people need different amounts. Each individual has their own ideal level of stress, but it’s important to always set aside time for relaxation for yourself to recharge your batteries.