Stress is something that many, if not all, of us can confidently say we experience occasionally or regularly.
We look around our workplace and our homes to find that we are all navigating stress on personal, professional, political and national levels.
What is stress and who does it affect?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines stress as the physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors, involving changes that affect nearly every system of the body and influencing how people feel and behave. Stress accompanies most aspects of life no matter how big or small, positive or negative.
The most common emotions associated with prolonged stress are anxiety, sadness and anger. In February of 2021, the APA reported that 84% of American adults reported experiencing at least one of these emotions associated with prolonged stress. Most cited sources of stress such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the future of the nation and political unrest.
Since then, we have had what seems like a never-ending smorgasbord of national and international stressors to sustain our worry. This does not take into account the personal, professional and social stressors that we may feel the impact of in an even stronger way.
How does stress look in our lives?
Stress influences not just our feelings but also how we behave. Stress can appear like isolation from friends and family and procrastinating on both easy and difficult tasks. It looks like falling deeper into vices or habits that we just cannot shake, like overindulging in food.
Due to the elevated levels of cortisol produced, stress can also look like the headaches, high blood pressure and skin conditions that seem to evolve in our lives over time.
How can we get back in control of our stress?
Despite how pervasive stress can be in our communities, bodies and emotional responses, there are steps that can be taken to better manage our experience. Here are 10 tips to help:
Tip 1: Give yourself a break from social media and the news. A constant stream of negative information can promote ongoing stress.
Tip 2: Spend the end of each day reflecting on three good things that happened. Encourage your family and friends to do this with you. In addition to promoting emotional resilience, this simple act can help strengthen positive thinking and gratitude.
Tip 3: Take self-care breaks intermittently throughout your day like taking a short walk or watching a funny video. Encourage your family, friends and children to do the same. Use your phone alarm clock to hold you accountable for keeping these scheduled breaks.
Tip 4: Stay connected with your support system.
Tip 5: Reframe your perspective and interpretations of events when needed. Sometimes our distorted thoughts on something leads to exaggerated stress responses.
Tip 6: Develop your positive self-talk. Use difficult times as an excuse to show yourself compassion and encouragement rather than harsh criticism.
Tip 7: Recognize that stress can even accompany positive events like having a baby or getting a promotion. Don’t make yourself feel bad for experiencing a negative emotion around a happy event.
Tip 8: Assert yourself through setting limits with the expectations of others and expectations you have of yourself. Be okay with setting realistic goals.
Tip 9: Reduce triggers to your stress when and where you can. For example, if figuring out what to cook for dinner is a nightly stressor then develop a meal plan that you can stick to from week to week.
Tip 10: Reacclimate yourself with your values and hobbies. Making time to reconnect with activities we enjoy or our faith-based organizations can help provide comfort and positive feelings during the most stressful of times.
How do I get help?
Catholic Health's dedicated specialists provide behavioral health care services across Long Island to help improve your life and well-being.
Call 516-705-2248 to find care near you.