Managing your emotions: don't let stress leave your life a mess
January 30, 2009
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Rich or poor. Soldier or Civilian. Officer or enlisted. Old or young. No matter who you are, stress does not discriminate.
Stress, despite negative connotations associated with it, is a natural reaction to a danger or demand, according to the pamphlet "About Stress Management," a Channing L. Bete Company pamphlet available at Army Community Services (ACS), Fort McPherson, Ga. Stress is an age-old survival response intended to give someone the extra strength needed to fight off or flee from danger.
In a stressful situation, the body experiences a variety of physical reactions, including muscle tightening, blood pressure rising, heart rate increasing and the body producing extra adrenaline, according to the pamphlet.
While the response can be beneficial temporarily, long-term stress harms the body, said Kelly Walters, a stress counselor for ACS.
Too much stress has been medically linked to ulcers, allergies, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes, according to "About Stress Management."
Stress also affects the mind by triggering:
* low self-esteem and self-worth
* the way a person relates to other people by making him or her more difficult to deal with and
* the way a person relates to the world by depleting him or her of energy needed to interact with others.
Such strain on interaction can be detrimental to an organization, according to the pamphlet.
Stress can come from a variety of sources, both personal and professional, Walters said. For Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem, Ga. employees, much of the stress may be caused by the pending base realignment and closure, she added.
To address and combat the potential pitfalls of the stress many are feeling, Walters said there are a variety of resources available on the installation: the chaplain's office, the Wellness Center and ACS. The staff in each of these offices can provide options for stress relief.
In addition to offering counseling, ACS holds classes to help people deal with stress. Walters instructed one class Jan. 28, 2009 on understanding the symptoms, causes and affects of stress, techniques to deal with stress brought on by change, methods for controlling stress and techniques to lessen stress. The class was designed to educate people on ways to positively reduce stress and give them breathing exercise techniques to use at work and home.
Walters has been teaching similar classes for more than 10 years.
Developing such techniques, though they seem minor, are a major way to cut down on the negatives of stress, according to the pamphlet. Planning a stress management program increases physical and emotional well-being. People should select coping strategies that match their stress symptoms, said Peter Neidig of Behavioral Science Associates and the author of the "Work and Home Stress Management Workbook."
People stressed out at work should find barriers between work and home to avoid having stress spill from one environment to the other. For example, Neidig writes, if a family is stressed out by lack of fun, it should go out more. Spouses stressed out by their partner giving orders should talk to their partners about making requests instead.
In creating a positive management program, people should include a mixture of exercising, eating right and getting enough sleep, the pamphlet advises. Finding a hobby to enjoy daily for at least half an hour can also help prevent people from turning to negative means to escape stress.
Drugs like alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, barbiturates and tranquilizers are negative ways to deal with stress.
Although stress is normally something to avoid, it can have its benefits, said Walters.
Eustress, a positive form of stress, is encountered during desirable events, such as winning a competition, completing a challenge, getting a promotion or falling in love.
"Stress can be good because it can keep someone going, focused and motivated," Walters said.
However, eustress, like regular stress, can become dangerous when prolonged or experienced to a very high degree, she added.
Signs of too much stress can manifest themselves in both physical and psychological ways, the pamphlet states.
Physical signs include nervousness, nail biting, cold hands and feet, muscle tension, lack of energy and headaches. Psychological signs include confusion, depression, changes in sleeping, eating and sexual habits, mood changes, increased use of alcohol and other drugs, increased irritability and crankiness. Since sometimes these issues may be caused by other medical reasons, when in doubt, people should consult a doctor, the pamphlet warns.
Although the classes offered by ACS are not designed to diagnose, they do contain self-assessments, Walters said.
"Everyone has stress in some form or fashion," she said. "We want people to be able to deal with this stress and change."
The next stress class dealing with change is planned for Feb. 25, 2009 from 1:30 until 3 p.m. at ACS, Bldg. 62 at Fort McPherson, Ga.
Aca,!A"Hopefully, people will take this and enjoy it and come back for other classes,Aca,!A? Walters said.