Health Beat: Tips for identifying and coping with stress

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the following information to help cope with stress following a traumatic event.

Strong emotions like fear, sadness or other symptoms of depression are normal, as long as they are temporary and don't interfere with daily activities. If these emotions last too long or cause other problems, it's a different story.

Symptoms of stress

Common reactions to a stressful event include:

* Physical or emotional tension are often signs of stress. They can be reactions to a situation that causes you to feel threatened or anxious. Stress can be positive (such as planning your wedding) or negative (such as dealing with the effects of a natural disaster).

* Disbelief and shock.

* Tension and irritability.

* Fear and anxiety about the future.

* Difficulty making decisions.

* Being numb to one's feelings.

* Loss of interest in normal activities.

* Loss of appetite.

* Nightmares and recurring thoughts about the event.

* Anger.

* Increased use of alcohol and drugs.

* Sadness and other symptoms of depression.

* Feeling powerless.

* Crying.

* Sleep problems.

* Headaches, back pains and stomach problems.

* Trouble concentrating.

Tips for self-care

The best ways to manage stress in hard times are through self-care:

* Avoid drugs and alcohol. They may seem to be a temporary fix to feel better, but in the long run they can create more problems and add to your stress -- instead of take it away.

* Find support. Seek help from a partner, family member, friend, counselor, doctor or clergyperson. Having a sympathetic, listening ear and sharing your problems and stress really can lighten the burden.

* Connect socially. After a stressful event, it is easy isolate yourself. Make sure that you are spending time with loved ones. Consider planning fun activities with your partner, children or friends.

* Take care of yourself.

* Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.

* Exercise regularly.

* Get plenty of sleep.

* Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out -- for example, treat yourself to a therapeutic massage.

* Maintain a normal routine.

* Stay active. You can take your mind off your problems by giving -- helping a neighbor, volunteering in the community or taking the dog on a long walk. These can be positive ways to channel your feelings.

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