By Valeria Vilar, MA, BEd, LMHC
Do you feel irritated, tense, disorganized, have a headache or feel that you are not using your energy productively? If your answer is yes, you could be suffering from stress.
Susan wakes up every morning, makes breakfast, wakes her children up and gets them ready for school. When her children and her husband begin with their daily activities, she starts organizing her house. But she realizes that she will never manage to accomplish her expectation of having the house perfectly neat and clean, preparing a perfect meal, and doing the shopping. By the time she has to pick her children up from school she feels worn out and frustrated because she was unable to meet the goals she had set in the morning. In the afternoon, when her children are home, she feels impatient, and by the time her husband comes home from work she is nervous and exhausted.
Something similar happens to Kim—she wakes up tired, with her mind on all the deliveries that are still pending at work. She has breakfast, gets dressed and goes to work. The work day goes by very quickly; she is so busy that she can hardly go out for lunch. When she gets home, she can’t stop thinking about all the pending tasks at work. She has a hard time sleeping during the night and barely speaks to her friends and family.
Susan and Kim feel there is no harmony in their lives, days are all alike and they can’t seem to find a balance between themselves and others.
There are many situations that generate stress—keeping up with schedules or meeting deadlines, responsibilities, moving, changing jobs, etc.— all of these have a great impact on your health.
But stress is not necessarily negative. Instead, if you learn to cope with stress productively, it could be helpful and motivating for the activities you need to carry out. Thus, the key is to discover how stress affects our lives.
Stress can affect you by increasing your energy, but this may not necessarily be productive—you could feel irritated, physically tense, experience headaches or stomachaches, over speak and find it difficult to concentrate. In these situations, it is best to find productive and pleasing ways of dealing with this increase of energy, such as practicing sports or walking, and it could also be helpful to prepare a daily schedule with realistic goals.
However, stress may also affect you by reducing your energy—you feel unmotivated, isolated and permanently tired. Instead of accompanying this energy reduction with unpleasant feelings, try redirecting this energy by doing meditation, listening to music, reading a book or finding a relaxed activity that gives you pleasure.
It is important to get a clear idea of the situations and activities that are a source of stress for each individual, in order to analyze them. In this way, instead of avoiding them or loosing control of the situation, you can focus on finding ways to deal with them successfully.
Learning to recognize how each of us reacts to stress and manage stress adequately takes a long time, and sometimes this is not easy to achieve without help. If you learn the techniques and tools available, you can prevent your stress from escalating to higher levels and at the same time you will be able to redirect this negative energy and use it positively.