Cooperative Extension: Stress and how we handle it

What is Stress Anyway?

The traffic is awful, the bills are due, the laundry is piling up, and the kids are fighting. Life is full of stress. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is how the brain and the body responds to any physical, mental, and emotional demand. Not all stress is bad, stress can help motivate us to get things done. When faced with a threat or stressful event, our bodies produce hormones such as epinephrine, which can cause a temporary rise in our heart rate and blood pressure. Chronic, un-managed stress can cause long-term symptoms including headaches, high blood pressure and even problems sleeping.

Identify the Sources of Stress in Your Life

Feeling stressed is normal, but some people cope with stress better than others. Our thoughts, lifestyle and emotions can affect how much stress we endure. We must identify the causes of our stress before we can begin to manage them. Although the causes of stress are similar for both men and women, it is how we recognize and manage our stress that makes us different.

Common Causes of Stress:

-Work or unemployment

-Money, financesa

-Drug or alcohol abuse

-Family breakdown

-Health issues

-Major life changes

What are the Symptoms of Stress?

Our bodies automatically respond to stressors in our lives. However, constant and uncontrolled stress can lead to serious physical and mental consequences. No matter how stressful your life seems, we must recognize the warning signs of stress and take action.

Watch out for the following warning signs:

-Feeling tired, not sleeping properly

-Loss of concentration and an inability to complete projects

-Irritability, low self-esteem or mood swings

-Feeling tense or anxious

-Feeling unmotivated

-Withdrawing from family and friends

-Excessive drinking and/or drug use

-Physical signs such as headaches, chest pains, high blood pressure, digestive problems or aches and pains

Men and Women Handle Stress Differently

How stress affects you may depend upon your gender. Men and women recognize and react to stress in different ways, both mentally and physically.

When feeling stressed, women reach out to friends and family. They seek support to lower their stress and find a solution to their challenges. By talking about their emotions, women are able to process their feelings and share the pressure of their situation.

When men experience stressful situations, they are likely to hide their feelings or change the subject to escape a stressful situation. Men find it hard to talk about their feelings or ask for help when faced with pressures from their job, family issues or money worries. Men prefer to play sports or listen to music to manage stress.

Stress Reduction Strategies for Men and Women

Stress is a normal part of life, but chronic stress can be bad for our health. Stress management means taking control of your thoughts, emotions, and lifestyle. Making simple changes in your life such as maintaining a network of close friends, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep can help reduce your overall stress.

This article originally appeared in Living Well in the Panhandle:

For more information on Cooperative Extension or any upcoming programs, please contact the Gadsden County Extension Office at 850-875-7255 or stop by our office on Highway 90 at 2140 W. Jefferson Street, Quincy, Fla. You can also stay up to date by following us on Facebook at UF/IFAS Extension Gadsden County.

Laurie Osgood is the family and consumer sciences agent for UF/IFAS Extension Gadsden County. 

Laurie Osgood – Gadsden County News Service


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