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How to manage Stress and Depression

Updated on April 28, 2010

How do you cope under stress or pressure?

There are some times in life when pressure builds up beyond what we can cope with. This is when we experience symptoms of stress. Personal relationships, financial commitments, moving, work, family problems, lack of sleep, and illness can all be sources of pressure.

Stress can have both physical and mental symptoms. How you respond, and how much you can cope with, varies from person to person.

Symptoms of stress

Symptoms can be divided into two categories - physical and behavioral. Take a look at the following list. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be stressed and should take time to address the sources of pressure in your life.

Physical symptoms and Behavioral Symptoms of Stress

Physical Symptoms
Behavioral Symptoms
Irritability ( you are easily irritated)
Fatigue ( you feel tired all the time)
Harsh treatment of others
Gastro-intestinal (stomach) problems
Increased smoking or alcohol consumption
Lack of concentration
Isolation ( you like to be alone)
Sexual problems
Disruptive eating patterns (over eat or under-eat)
High blood pressure
Compulsive shopping
Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
Communication problems
Heart problems (palpitations, you feel your heart beating fast)

Stress can cause physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.

Stress can cause physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, which can affect your health, peace-of-mind, and personal and professional relationships. Too much stress can cause relatively minor illnesses like insomnia, headaches and backaches, but can also contribute to serious problems such as a nervous breakdown, or life-threatening diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

Controlling stress

Learn how much stress you can live with and try and live within these limits. You also need to learn how to cope, or how to react to, stressful situations so they don't stress you out.
If you are trying to manage the stress in your life, try the following strategies:

Assess your priorities. What is the most important thing you have to do? What can wait until tomorrow? Create a list prioritizing your tasks from most important to least important. Write this down so you have a structure to follow, and you don't have the stress of trying to remember everything you have to do. Vulnerabilities. What are your vulnerabilities? What things do you know make you stressed-out? If you know that giving a presentation, or negotiating with your bank manager makes you nervous, don't wait until the situation arises to deal with it. Practice these events. By preparing for the situation and acting out your reaction to anticipated stressors, you can reduce your stress at the event. Expectations. What do you expect from yourself? Are your expectations realistic? Expecting too much from yourself or others can be disappointing if these expectations are not reached. Learn how to maintain a realistic perspective to offset misunderstandings. Keep healthy! Make sure you incorporate a healthy level of physical activity (30 minutes a day), a balanced diet, and relaxation techniques into your daily routine. They will all help lower your risk of becoming over-stressed.

How much stress do you have?

If you feel stressed, make time to look at the things causing you stress.

  • Write a list of all the current events that are causing stress in your life - make sure you think about all areas of your life.
  • Think about how you cope with stressful situations. What do you do when you are stressed? Does it affect your diet or sleep? Do you find you treat people differently? What effect does it have on your health?
  • Figure out which activities you find relaxing. Is it meeting with friends, going for walks, reading for pleasure, taking a bath, doing yoga, listening to music, having a massage, spending time with your family?

Once you have identified your stressors and ways of coping you can begin to see how you can improve your stress management behavior.

Address each stressor and figure out what you want the outcome to be, and how you are going to get to that point. Talk to other people and get their advice and support. Identify your effective relaxation techniques and incorporate them into your day or week. Learning how to control stress will not happen overnight, but you should work at it and try not to let stress build up. Some situations will be resolved easily, while others may require a lot of attention.

If you think that you or someone you know may be under significant stress and not just dealing with a passing difficulty, it may be helpful to talk to a doctor or see a counselor. There are confidential services that can help you with all sorts of life events. Take time to address the stress in your life, before it has lasting effects on you.


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