Don’t Stress Out!

By Robin Dusch, Executive Assistant

Clearfield County Career & Technology Center

With April being Stress & Anxiety Awareness Month, all of us have experienced both at one time or another in our lives. It’s perfectly normal and can, in fact, be considered healthy.  It’s when it takes over our everyday life that it becomes a problem and affects our health and way of living.

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.  Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an upcoming event or something with an uncertain outcome.

Worry is thinking about problems or fears and also showing fear and concern because they think something bad has happened or could happen.  Worriers are over-thinkers and their minds never rest.  It’s easy to say that worry doesn’t solve anything.  This is true, but to the worrier, it’s hard to break that habit.  Those with anxiety are constant worriers and they worry about things they can’t control.

The “Fight or Flight” response is a reaction our body has in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival and prepares our bodies to stay and fight or to flee the situation.

Panic attacks are a reaction to something fearful and can come on suddenly.  Symptoms include shakiness, cold sweats, heart palpitations, dizziness, and feeling as if you may pass out.  Fear causes you to avoid places where a previous attack occurred.  Panic attacks are not a disease, nor will they harm you.  Attacks can also occur with hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.

Chronic stress and anxiety can have adverse effects on one’s health as it can lower a person’s immune system, cause tension in muscles, many times in the neck and shoulder area, and can also cause headaches, nausea, depression, anger, and fear.   Anxiety has even been linked to the development of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Treatment for chronic stress and anxiety might include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication as well as treatment for any physical illnesses brought on as a result of living with stress for an extended period of time.

There are ways to deal with stress and anxiety on your own.  Here are a few to try.

Self-talk – When feeling anxious, talk to yourself as you would talk to a loved one or a friend when they are feeling anxious or worrying about a situation.  Use comforting words and tones.

Deep Breathing – when feeling the beginning of a panic attack, or an overwhelming amount of anxiety, stop and take slow, deep breaths through your nose and out your mouth.  Use your diaphragm (stomach) instead of your lungs when deep breathing.  This will take a bit of practice.  You want to deliberately slow your breathing until you’re in a calm state.

Meditation is another great way to relax.  This may take some practice as you have to completely separate yourself from the world around you and concentrate on your breathing.  Visualize being in a calming place while breathing.  This visualization could be anywhere you feel safe and happy.

Laughter – A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and triggers the release of endorphins (natural feel good chemicals), decreases stress hormones, and is a great workout for those abdominal muscles!  Laughter relaxes the whole body, boosts the immune system, and improves the function of blood flow.

Journaling – keeping a journal can help try and identify what is causing your stress and is an outlet for your thoughts.

Shutting off the mind can be a tricky thing to do.  It’s not easy when we juggle many things like work, family, finances, etc.  Take time for yourself everyday just to unwind.  Do something you like to do, such as read, exercise, or work on a hobby.  Write small notes of encouragement and post them all over the house, at work, and even in the car.  Remember to think positively and compliment yourself every day!

The Women’s Health Task Force is a small group volunteering their time to educate women and families on important health issues. If you have an interest in health, work in a caring profession, or just want to volunteer with other sincere women, consider attending our monthly planning meetings.

These meetings are held the first Thursday of each month beginning at 12 p.m. The next meeting will be held April 3, at the Penn State Extension Office located at 511 Spruce St., Suite 4, Clearfield, PA  16830.

All interested persons are encouraged to attend.  Additional information is available by calling Robin Kuleck, Penn State Extension, at 814-765-7878, Ext.2.  Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/whtfclearfieldcounty.

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