Ways to Manage Stress by Shena Fowler

Although stress is often viewed as a negative, it is actually a natural and normal physical response. A stress response is simply the body’s ability to defend and protect itself. This “fight-or-flight” reaction can help a person stay energetic, alert, and focused. These behaviors can be beneficial. A winning touchdown, successful board room presentation, or an A on a test can all be partially due to a healthy stress response. However, too much stress can become harmful and can cause extreme damage to a person – physically, mentally, and relationally.

Chronic stress is caused when the body is subjected to an overwhelming amount of physical and psychological threats. Since the body cannot differentiate between extreme or moderate stress triggers, it reacts with the same intensity, regardless of how major or minor the cause. This means that a bounced check or a long commute can be the catalyst for intense stress related symptoms (that may feel as intense as a real life-or-death crisis). Symptoms may include muscle tension, headache, fatigue, anxiety, changes in eating habits, mood swings, lack of enthusiasm, and/or an upset stomach.

Each person has a different tolerance level when it comes to calculating stress. It is important for each individual to understand his or her stress level threshold. Factors that influence stress tolerance include: one’s ability to deal with emotions, one’s preparedness for stress-inducing circumstances, one’s sense of control, one’s attitude, one’s support network, one’s physical health and nutritional status, one’s fitness level, and one’s sleep habits. These variables are what enable one person to maintain a sense of calm while another person feels completely overwhelmed.

Just as each person must evaluate the factors that cause stress, it is essential for individuals to consider the ways in which they react to stress, and whether or not their responses need to be altered. Some individuals react by freezing up and becoming…

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