Learning to Live a Healthier Life by Developing Relaxation & Resiliency Skills
More than ever, Americans are stressed with fast-paced lives, financial concerns, and facing chronic health issues. Recognizing stress factors, symptoms, and treatment can help manage the effects of stress on our minds and bodies.
Stress is the everyday wear and tear of life. It is the way our bodies react emotionally and physically to any change in the status quo. Changes that happen in our lives (good, as well as bad), whether real or imagined, requires a response from us. Mary Scullin, RN coordinates workshops and programs for stress management at RUMC’s Women’s Comprehensive Center on Staten Island’s South Shore. She shares, “When we feel able to handle situations, we see change as a challenge or opportunity. When we feel we can’t handle things, we view change as a threat to our well-being and fear our coping abilities are inadequate… that generates the stress response.”
What is the Stress Response?
The stress response is a series of biochemical events that occur in our body when we feel that threat to our well-being. The neurochemicals that are released produce a state of arousal, causing our heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure to increase. We also have hormones that are released which increase sugar in our body (a precursor to developing diabetes) and hold onto fat (a factor in developing obesity and cardiac disease). Scullin notes, “The stress response is a wonderful mechanism designed to get us through a brief episode of acute stress, but the long term effects of chronic stress can result in hypertension, cardiac disease, and a decreased immune system.”
What are Symptoms of Stress?
The emotional symptoms of stress can be irritability, anger, poor concentration, and a marked increase in anxiety and depression. Some behavioral symptoms of stress include an increase in food consumption, alcohol, nicotine and other self-medication use. Physical symptoms can include a rapid heart rate, increase in blood pressure, gastrointestinal distress, and insomnia.
What is Stress Management?
Stress Management is a short term process that provides tools to prevent your body from being on “high alert.” Scullin says that being in tune with our body can help detect stress overload. “When you find yourself in a state of chronic worry and anxiety or feel overwhelmed with life, identify stress triggers and pay attention to your body’s signals.”
Five Ways to Counteract Stress
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity is a natural stress-reliever.
- Get enough sleep. Adequate rest can help restore your energy.
- Don't drink alcohol in excess or use drugs to forget your troubles. These substances can increase your stress and cause health problems.
- Identify the causes of your stress and learn stress-management techniques, such as deep breathing, visualization or progressive relaxation.
- Limit caffeinated beverages, such as coffee. They can increase your blood pressure and make you feel anxious.
Scullin adds, “Learning to incorporate a combination of stress-reduction techniques in your daily life will help to keep the ill-effects of stress from wreaking havoc on one’s body, mind, and spirit.”
Mary Scullin, RN coordinates Stress Management Workshops and Programs at Richmond University Medical Center’s Women’s Comprehensive Center on the South Shore. She works with groups and one-on-one to teach stress reduction techniques. For more information, call 718-984-9637 or visit www.RUMCSI.org/wellness.