EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
April is Stress Awareness Month. Given our current anticipation of possible work changes and budgetary challenges, it is a timely topic to discuss.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, everyone feels stressed occasionally. It's important to know our limits in order to avoid serious health effects from stress.
The American Academy of Family Physicians says feelings of stress are caused by our body's instinct to defend itself.
According to the NIMH, many things trigger the stress response, such as positive or negative change which may be real or even simply perceived. Stressors such as change may be mild, like watching a scary movie or worrying about an upcoming presentation. Other changes are more significant, like marriage, a serious illness or accident, or the threat of having our livelihood affected.
Stress that goes on indefinitely because of daily challenges and changes can with time cause unhealthy physical symptoms, such as digestive issues, headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger and irritability. Those under chronic stress are prone to more frequent and severe viral infections. Vaccines, such as the flu shot, may be less effective for chronically stressed individuals.
The NIMH states that stress may be hard to notice at first, but over time, continued strain on the body from routine stress may lead to serious health problems.
Stress management involves taking healthy control of those situations an individual can change. According to NIMH, some ways to cope with stress include:
- Getting help if you are overwhelmed or feel you are not coping adequately.
- Assure that you are being treated adequately for new or existing health problems. Take prescribed medications and follow the recommendations of your doctor.
- Keep others in your support system. Seek help from family, friends and community. Seek spiritual help and guidance when needed.
- Recognize signs of your body's response to stress such as difficulty sleeping, increased substance use, angry outbursts, over or under-eating, fatigue or depression.
- Set priorities, including your well-being. Some things must be done first, but other demands or projects can wait. Learn to say no to requests that may become burdens. Recognize what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you didn't get done.
- Avoid dwelling on problems you can't fix. Take steps to solve problems instead of feeling helpless. Distinguishing assertiveness from aggressiveness and passivity, can do much to resolve internal stress.
- Exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet and get seven to nine hours sleep daily.
- Schedule time for breaks and relaxation including small breaks during the work day as well as scheduled vacation time during the year. At Eglin, available resources to help cope with stress issues include: the Employee Assistance Program; Airman and Family Readiness Center; Military and Family Life Consultant; Military One Source; Mental Health; Family Advocacy; Civilian Health Promotion Services and the Chaplain's Office.
Most everyone has stress at some time in his or her life. Taking constructive action can keep you in healthy control.