Counselor Connection Blog: Stress (Part 1)
Stress. It’s a familiar word to each of us. In today’s fast-paced world of never-ending responsibilities, meetings, deadlines, practices, games, school work, music lessons, household chores, meal planning, childcare, and carpooling, it’s no surprise that nearly 50% of Americans say they are concerned with the amount of stress in their lives (American Psychological Association). While some stress can be good and help motivate or stimulate us to take action, stress becomes a problem when there is too much, too often. Untreated, prolonged stress can lead to negative physical, mental, emotional, behavioral and spiritual symptoms. How do you know when you’re stressed? Identifying your stress symptoms is the first step to doing something about it!
Here are some common stress symptoms:
- Tight or sore muscles
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Weight gain or loss
- Difficulty concentrating or problems remembering
- Racing thoughts or your mind going blank
- Feeling nervous, tense, jittery, irritable , depressed and/or sad
- Isolating oneself
- Compulsive eating, smoking or drinking
- Anger with God
Stress can come from various external sources—relationships, the work place, major life events and daily hassles; yet the most common source of stress is internal. We create most of our own distress by our self-talk. What we say to ourselves in response to a situation determines our moods and feelings. It’s how we interpret the situation (our thoughts) that makes us feel the way we do. For example, when you have a long list of “to-do’s” and you tell yourself, “I’m never going to get everything, I just can’t pull it together” you’re likely to feel frustrated and stressed. But if you say to yourself, “I have a lot to do but I’ll get it done eventually” you’re more likely to feel a sense of calm and acceptance. Have you ever paid attention to your self-talk?
In the next blog entry we’ll explore some of the ways to manage the stress in our lives. In the meantime, I’d like you to start identifying your stress symptoms. Pay more attention to how your body feels and the thoughts that run through your mind. Do you have a lot of negative, self-defeating thoughts that are contributing to your stress-filled life?