Kara Meyer, Ph.D. - Psychology Services
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My Blog

STRESS

With April being National Stress Awareness Month, I thought it would be fitting to kick off this blog with a discussion on stress.  

So what is stress anyway?
Stress is our response to some sort of stimulus or event that threatens us or disrupts our balance. Thus, stress is a part of our daily lives.  

Stressors
Stressors are situations and pressures that cause us stress. They can be external or internal. External Stressors include traffic, work demands, deadlines, pollution, finances, relationship problems, family matters, a busy schedule, and competing priorities. Internal Stressors include being pessimistic or negative, illness, aging, injury, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, perfectionism, and having unrealistic expectations. Not all stress is negative; there can be positive stressors as well. Positive Stressors include getting married, buying a home, going to college, and getting a new job.  

Signs & Symptoms
When confronted by a stressor, our stress response, known as the “fight or flight” reaction is activated. This is when our nervous system releases hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which cause our blood pressure to rise, heart and breathing rate to increase, muscles to tighten, and senses to sharpen. It is our body’s way of protecting us and preparing us for danger. As such, we are stronger, more alert, and energetic. So, just as not all stressors are negative, having some stress isn’t necessarily bad. In fact, a little bit of stress can help us. It is what motivates us to do well under pressure. However, when there is prolonged stress or when we react to stress negatively, it can negatively affect our health.   Each person reacts to stress differently. Likewise, while there is no formula that determines how much stress is too much, there are some common symptoms indicating you may be overwhelmed by stress. Below are some different symptoms:  

  • Cognitive Symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, poor judgment, worry, and racing thoughts.
  • Emotional Symptoms: Moodiness or irritability, restlessness, feeling overwhelmed, loneliness, and depression.
  • Physical Symptoms: Aches and pains, muscle tension, digestive problems (diarrhea & constipation), dizziness, and being sick often.
  • Behavioral Symptoms: Change in eating and sleeping habits, procrastination, withdrawal from friends and activities, and using substances (i.e, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol) to cope.
 
What are your stressors and how do you respond?
Some of our stressors and stress reactions are obvious, while others are not. Keeping a log or journal of your stressors can be helpful. For one week, try logging what has caused you tension or anxiety. Note when and where these events occurred. Then note how you responded by recording how you felt physically and emotionally. Also report on what you did to cope. Don’t forget to include your constructive actions and positive events that occurred as well!   For some more information on stress, check out this link for information on Myths About Stress.  
- Kara Meyer, Ph.D.  


**The content of this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other medical professional. This blog does not provide clinical advice, nor should its contents be considered clinical advice. Should you have any healthcare-related questions, please call or see your physician or other healthcare provider promptly.