It’s normal to struggle with stress. In fact, 47 percent of Americans say they are worried about their stress level. But even though unhealthy stress levels are common in our culture, they are far from healthy.
Once a person experiences stress, it can affect them in a variety of ways, from physical pain to difficulty concentrating. Stress of any level is uncomfortable, but in some cases it can reach a point where it’s truly dangerous.
Awareness of an Unhealthy Stress Level
How do you know when your stress has become unhealthy? Here is a checklist you can use to help determine when your stress level has crossed the line into a serious problem:
❏ Frequent headaches
❏ Chest pain
❏ Shortness of breath
❏ Feeling overly tired
❏ Difficulty sleeping
❏ Trouble concentrating
❏ Decline in work performance
❏ Issues within interpersonal relationships
If you are exhibiting four or more of these signs of unhealthy stress more often than not, your stress level is dangerously high. However, there’s good news. Even when your stressors feel overwhelming, there are simple steps you can take to reduce your day-to-day stress and bring it down to a more healthy level.
Simple Strategies to Reduce Stress
The first step in reducing your stress level is to identify the source of your stress. The origin of stress may be difficult to pin down because it can develop from all different areas of life such as the workplace, a hectic schedule, family duties or taking care of your everyday responsibilities.
Are you feeling rushed day-in and day-out, without ever having a moment to yourself? Or are you feeling pressure from the demands of your workplace? Perhaps there is a specific change in your living or family arrangements that you haven’t dealt with yet. Once you identify the source of your stress you can figure out what you can control within the situation and make a plan to change it.
Start by challenging your expectations for your behavior and identifying a few things that are within your power to change. Then work your way up to situations that are more complex. Even if you cannot completely relieve stress from a particular activity or person, you can find ways to reduce it.
Here are a few concrete things you can do to start reducing stress today:
❏ Get help by delegating work to others.
❏ Carve out time for exercise, which can help your body process stress more efficiently.
❏ Meditate daily to help replenish your brain function and energy level.
❏ Avoid excess caffeine or stimulants, which can aggravate stress.
❏ Choose foods that nourish and support your health rather than indulgences such as sugar and processed foods which can slow you down.
❏ Don’t aim to be a perfect “Supermom” or “Superdad”; trying to be everything to everyone will lead you to burnout.
❏ Learn how to say “No” to requests and events that are not 100 percent necessary, such as an extra job with the PTA or an extra assignment at work.
If you continue to display an unhealthy amount of stress, check in with your physician to assure there isn’t an underlying medical cause for your symptoms. Your physician can also refer you to a wellness team that will help you create a stress reduction program using exercise, counseling and relaxation therapy.
Successfully managing day-to-day stress is essential to your overall well being. PartnerMD health coaches work hand-in-hand with your PartnerMD physician to help you develop a personalized stress management plan. Find out how we do it with a free wellness consultation.