Put stress in its place

Doctor's advice, Staying mentally healthy / Sanitas Medical Center

Put stress in its place
As seen in INSPIRE Health Magazine May | June 2024 issue


Feeling stressed these days? You’re not alone. With national headlines that highlight contentious elections, climate change, the pandemic and other big-picture challenges, 2024 is a stressful time. And that’s before you add the stress factors that affect your personal life. A recent scientific survey revealed that 49 percent of respondents said stress has negatively impacted their behavior.1  


What does stress look like? 
Stress is part of everyday life, and we’re wired to deal with moderate levels of it and move on. But when the level becomes excessive, it causes problems. Symptoms of chronic or too much stress2 can include:

  • anger, fear, frustration, numbness, sadness or worry on a regular basis
  • difficulty reaching a decision
  • trouble focusing your attention
  • disturbances in sleep patterns
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • physical health concerns like aches and pains, digestive issues or skin problems
  • existing mental or physical health problems that start getting worse
  • misuse of mind-altering substances—legal or illegal


Stress and anxiety: similar but different 
Stress is sometimes confused with anxiety.3 And though they have some symptoms in common, they’re not the same. The difference is that stress is triggered by external events and usually subsides when the triggers are reduced or eliminated.  
It’s a response to an existing challenge. In contrast, anxiety is a fear that something bad may happen, and symptoms often remain even after any immediate triggers are gone. One way to tell if your level of stress warrants attention is to note if symptoms are occurring more often or more severely than usual.  


How stress impacts your life
Chronic stress can affect your life in ways that might snowball into larger problems.3 It can cause physical symptoms like insomnia, pain, high blood pressure and other health issues. It can aggravate conditions you already suffer from. And it can also reduce your concentration, disrupt your sex life, and make you irritable enough to cause problems at work or in relationships.  


Coping with stress 
Stress isn’t that hard to manage if it comes in small doses; think of annoyances you deal with throughout the day (like a tight deadline, heavy traffic). It becomes a problem when there’s too much of it all at once. Consider these proactive steps to reduce your ongoing stress level:

  • Stay physically active and healthy
  • Take frequent breaks at work or home
  • Get plenty of sleep—ideally about
  • 7 hours for adults
  • While staying informed, limit your consumption of news—especially stories designed to stoke outrage or fear
  • Reduce or eliminate tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and drugs if you use them

If you experience a more immediate stress overload, try these coping mechanisms to help get you through a short-term crisis:

  • Long, deep breathing for a few minutes
  • Meditation and/or yoga
  • Speak with a trusted friend or faith-based counselor 

As a recent study confirmed, venting your anger and frustration could be counterproductive; chilling out is a better alternative.4 


If you need help 
If your stress-related problems are getting harder to manage on your own, talk to a mental health counselor at Sanitas Medical Center. Many physicians also have programs that are specifically designed for patients struggling with chronic stress and other mental health issues. The BeWell program at Sanitas offers mental and behavioral health screening, counseling, and referral services that can be customized to your needs. The program also offers tips and resources to guide you to any help you need.  

Show yourself some kindness. Take chronic stress seriously and get the help you need to get back to normal.

1 American Psychological Association  
2 cdc.gov 
3 psychcentral.com 
4 theconversation.com