Everyone experiences stress to some extent, but the thing causing the stress (stressor), and how people react to that stress varies greatly from person to person. Knowing a bit more about stress and ways to manage it is important for everyone, and managing stress effectively helps people continue to live their life to their fullest. 

There are different types of stress — eustress and distress. Eustress is sometimes called “good stress”. This is the type of stress that might be interpreted as excitement, motivation, or determination. Some examples of eustress include working on a big new project at work or school that you are passionate about. Or, when you exercise you are stressing your body but in a beneficial way that will result in increased strength, or endurance depending on what you’re doing. Stress helps us wake-up in the morning, and stress helps us ensure we accomplish tasks that need to be done. The more commonly known type of stress is distress — feelings of overwhelm, worry, or fear. This type of stress can be caused by world events, personal relationships, work, health, and numerous other triggers. 

Stress can lead to different physical and mental health concerns. It can impact a person’s appetite, energy levels, and sleep patterns or even lead to nightmares. Stress can also cause stomach pains and skin rashes. Additionally, people with mental health conditions may have worsening symptoms with increased stress. 

Some of the ways that people deal with stress can actually end up leading to poor health down the line. Stress can lead to increased alcohol consumption, increased smoking, the use of illegal drugs, or misuse of prescription drugs. Other responses to stress may include withdrawing from loved ones, zoning out through TV or social media, or avoiding difficult situations. While these mechanisms may help people feel better for a short while, they have consequences that can lead to additional health issues or other serious repercussions. Finding healthy ways to cope with stress will help you manage stress, and can improve your health in other ways as well.

To start with — individuals who may be misusing alcohol or other drugs to cope with stress, or those who have had symptoms of mental illness may consider reaching out to a mental health provider for additional support. There are resources available in Green County to help people work through these concerns. To find local behavioral providers please go to southwestern.wi.networkofcare.org.

Managing stress will look different for everyone, and what helps some individuals manage their stress may not help others. Overall, regular healthy habits that we think of as being beneficial for our overall wellbeing will often help with reducing stress. These are thing like exercising regularly, incorporating a wide variety of nutritious foods in your diet, sleeping 7-8 hours each night, and connecting with your loved ones. But, there are many other ways you can reduce stress. 

Mindfulness activities like meditation can help people better handle stress when it comes up. Additionally, breathing techniques can assist people in stressful situations to feel calmer. Lots of people aren’t very familiar with meditation or breathing exercises, but they can be very simple to learn and easy to use. For example, the “5-4-3-2-1” technique is a simple way to refocus when you may be feeling overwhelmed. You start with finding five things you can see, then four things around you that you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. To learn more about mindfulness techniques check out the National Institutes of Health website: www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth.

Other activities like dedicating some time to your hobby, or participating in a community group can help people deal with stress. Whether you enjoy reading, painting, gardening or fishing — practicing your hobby is a great way to get your mind off of the issues that have been stressing you out. This can also go for volunteering in the community. There are likely groups in your community working on issues you’re passionate about, getting involved can help you act to work towards the problems you see in your community and connect you to other community members. 

Stress is a normal part of life, and everyone experiences stress — and some stress is even good! As cliché as it may sound, when you’re feeling stressed you’re not alone. It’s never too late to try a new way to manage stress, and it’s never too late to reach out and ask for help if you’re struggling. 

The Wisconsin Department of Health Service’s Resilient Wisconsin Imitative has a lot of great resources and information about stress. For more ideas on how to manage stress, and additional resources for support you can visit their website at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/resilient/index.htm.

— Bridget Craker is the Public Health Educator for the Green County Public Health Department and can be reached at [email protected] or 608-328-9509.

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