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Managing Stress

Stress is a feeling of mental or physical tension. It is your body's natural reaction to a perceived challenge or threat. Some stress can be positive, such as when it motivates you to meet a deadline or avoid danger, but chronic or regular stress can take a toll on your overall health and wellbeing.

Types of Stress

Acute stress: Acute stress is short-term stress that comes on quickly in response to an immediate threat, challenge or change - whether perceived or real - and goes away once that demand is removed.

Common stressors, such as getting a new assignment at work, slamming on the breaks in traffic, or arguing with a loved one can cause acute stress. Acute stress also occurs in response to positive life events, such as getting married or starting a new job.

What happens in the body during an acute stress response?

During acute stress, your body's "fight-or-flight" response becomes activated. Levels of cortisol, adrenaline and other stress hormones rise, leading to an increase in heartrate, breathing and blood pressure.

Chronic stress: Chronic stress is prolonged and ongoing stress with no, or limited relief. There are many possible sources of chronic stress.

Chronic stress may be caused by ongoing concerns, such as financial hardship, an unstable relationship, long-term illness or disability, a demanding job, or past trauma.

When kept in a state of perceived threat or chronic stress, your body stays in "fight-or-flight" mode long-term. This response can wear down the body and harm your physical and mental health over time.

What are the symptoms of chronic stress?

Symptoms of chronic stress can vary in severity from person-to-person. Some common signs of chronic stress include:

  • Aches and pains

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Low energy

  • Unfocused or cloudy thinking

  • Frequent illness or infections

  • Irritability

  • Digestive problems

  • Anxiety

  • Change in weight or appetite

  • Increased alcohol or drug use

Coping with Stress

There isn't a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to dealing with stress. What works for one person may not work for someone else. It's important to find strategies that work for you.

Identify the problem: Identify what is causing your stress - once you know what the source is, you can take action to address the problem.

Work on finding solutions: Think about what you can do to relieve the problem that is causing you stress and take control of the things you can manage. This may look like searching for a new job, speaking to a healthcare professional, or meeting with a financial advisor.

Talk to someone: Talking about your stress may help you relieve some of it. It can also help you to gain a new perspective, as others may be able to see the situation in a different way and help you brainstorm solutions.

Simplify your life: Stress often occurs when we feel like the demands of a situation are greater than our resources to deal with it. This may happen if you have too many things going on. Look for ways to make your to-do list more manageable and practice saying "no."

Calm your mind: Practices like meditation, yoga, prayer, mindfulness and breathing exercises can help you calm your mind. With practice, these techniques can also help you manage your response to stressful situations as they arise.

Get active: Physical activity is a great way to reduce stress and improve mood. Find an activity that you enjoy - exercise should add to your life, not take away from it.

Mushkegowuk Council has health and mental health professionals who are equipped to help you navigate and manage stress and stress-related conditions. Contact us to schedule an appointment.

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