Everyone experiences stress. And many people
are stressed every day. But, stress isn't
always obvious. In fact, some people don't
even realize how much stress they're under
until they suffer serious physical consequences
of that stress.
Psychologist Anie Kalayjian, professor of
psychology at Fordham University, said she's
had patients end up in the emergency room,
convinced they were having a heart attack,
but instead, it was just the body's extreme
response to stress.
"If you're a person running around with
high energy or nervous energy, you may not
realize that you're stressed until you collapse!"
According to the American Academy of Family
Physicians, some possible signs that you're
under too much stress are: Anxiety, back pain,
stiff neck, depression, fatigue, trouble sleeping,
unexpected weight changes, headaches, relationship
troubles and high blood pressure.
"People need to start proactively trying
to prevent episodes before they have extreme
reactions," recommended Kalayjian.
But that doesn't mean you should make managing
stress just another item on your "to-do"
list, cautioned Gail Elliott Evo, the integrative
medicine coordinator at Beaumont Hospital
in Royal Oak, Mich.
"We talk so much about stress now. It's
to the point that people are now feeling judgmental
when they experience stress and can't eliminate
it. But, unless you're a guru sitting in a
temple in Tibet, I don't think you can avoid
stress. There will be periods where you'll
have stress," she said.
Still, managing stress or reducing it as
much as you can is a smart idea, because constant
stress leaves your body flooded with stress
hormones, which can increase your risk of
heart attack and other serious health problems.
"Stress causes physical and psychological
reactions. It can alter your sleep. It leaves
you constantly in fighting-mode and leaves
your immune system suppressed. You may get
sick a lot," Kalayjian said.
There's no one-size-fits-all approach when
it comes to managing stress.
"Some things will be right for one person
but not for another. Be open, and try things.
Give something a try, and if it's not right
for you, move on to something else. You'll
eventually find something that's right for
you," said Evo.
Some of the approaches she recommends include:
Massage, healing touch, yoga, tai chi, walking,
meditation and guided imagery.
Kalayjian said a good place to start de-stressing
is with deep breathing.
"One minute per each hour of the day,
you need to sit and do nothing but focus on
breathing. No phones, no lists, no responsibilities.
It's almost like how you recharge your battery
for your mobile phone. We need to recharge,
too," she said.
She also recommends exercise. "Don't
wait to feel stressed. Get at least a half
an hour of exercise every day. It gets a lot
of the toxins and stress out of our bodies,"
Kalayjian also advocates something she calls
"It helps to put things on paper and
outside of yourself. You don't have to store
it in your heart, body or mind. When we journal,
we let go of things and that acts as a release,"
She also suggests getting organized. "Many
people waste 20 percent of their time looking
for things. Try to be organized. Label things.
Have organizers. It seems very mundane, but
helps tremendously in saving your energy,"
Evo said many people use a combination of
techniques to relieve their stress.
"Be playful with it. Try different
things," she said.
Kalayjian agreed, adding that people need
to "learn how to have a sense of humor,
to laugh and make others laugh, too."
Finally, Kalayjian advised that if you try
several different methods to "de-stress"
and just can't seem to relax, you could probably
benefit from seeing a psychotherapist.