Stress is Just a Word

sb10063626bc-001“Stress is just a word” is a quote from Doc Orman, M.D.

Before I go any further – do you agree or disagree? I know that when I am feeling stressed it certainly feels more concrete than just a word in the dictionary. This past month as been set aside as National Stress Awareness month. A time when we are to examine our lives and the things, activities, people who cause us to feel stressed.

Although just a word, stress has been attributed to health issues, relationship challenges and the feeling of failure many of us experience from time to time. So what are we supposed to do about this word that seems to have such a stranglehold on us?

Doc Orman, MD has written a book called Stress Relief for College Students that he offers as a free download. At the end of the book there is further information about products and services he offers for a fee, and the book is by no means a replacement for counseling or any treatment you may be currently undergoing – but I found Dr. Orman provides some really interesting information.

Whether you are in college or graduated thirty years ago, the information has some value to how we define stress and how we cope.

Dr Orman suggests that “stress” is merely a word we use in place of other feelings:

For example, when we say we are suffering from stress, we often mean:
 We are suffering from anxiety.
 We are feeling frustrated or angry.
 We are excessively tired or feeling overwhelmed.
 We have tense muscles in our body.
 We just lost something important to us.
 We just lost someone dear to us.

No matter what we call it – I believe, it is how we manage the situation and the feelings that help us survive.

 If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.
George Burns 

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) offers an article on managing stress and the #1 tip is to avoid drugs or alcohol. So true. Often we joke that “it must be 5 o’clock somewhere” as a reason for pouring a glass of wine and thinking it might alleviate the stress of the day. The CDC offers these suggestions:

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 clergy person. Having a sympathetic, listening ear and sharing about 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, even taking the dog on a long walk. These can be positive ways to channel your feelings.

Mindtools offers a variety of Relaxation Techniques to help ease your stress levels and help focus your mind. The Mayo Clinic offers some basic, solid advice for dealing with stress:

The first step in successful stress relief is deciding to make a change in how you manage stress. The next step is identifying your stress triggers. Some causes of stress are obvious — job pressures, relationship problems or financial difficulties. But daily hassles and demands, such as commuting, arranging day care or being over-committed at work, can also contribute to your stress level. Positive events also can be stressful. If you got married, started a new job and bought a new house in the same year, you could have a high stress level. While negative events in general are more stressful, be sure to also assess positive changes in your life.  Once you’ve identified your stress triggers, you can start thinking about strategies for dealing with them.

Bottom line; we all feel stressed at one point or another and although National Stress month is coming to an end, our desire to de-stress our lives continues. Remember to put yourself first, some of the time. Give yourself a “time out” to assess the situation and the stress factors, take a few deep breaths and employ those stress relieving strategies that work best for you.