POLOKWANE – Managing stress is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle.

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

April is National Stress Awareness Month to bring attention to the negative impact of stress and Health MEC Dr Phopi Ramathuba said it cannot be defined or cured in isolation with taking care of one’s overall mental condition, which if not attended to, negatively affects one’s physical health.

“Engage in daily physical exercise, eat healthy, stop smoking and reduce alcohol intake. Be kind to your mind because health is wealth. If you are troubled, stressed or depressed, take the first step and seek professional help. Mental healthcare professionals are there and their services are free in all our state institutions. Until such time we start elevating mental health like we do with other medical emergencies, we will continue to lose our loved ones,” she said.

Meanwhile, mental health specialist Dr Jeanne Segal said people may not realise they are stressed if they spend most of their time frazzled in heavy mental duties.

How to identify stress:

1. Observe your muscles and insides. Are your muscles tense or sore? Is your stomach tight, cramped, or aching? Are your hands or jaw clenched?

2. Observe your breath. Is your breathing shallow? Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest. Watch your hands rise and fall with each breath. Notice when you breathe fully or when you “forget” to breathe.

3. Internally, we all respond the same way to the “fight-or-flight” stress response: Your blood pressure rises, your heart pumps faster, and your muscles constrict. Your body works hard and drains your immune system. Externally, however, people respond to stress in different ways.

4. The best way to quickly relieve stress often relates to your specific stress response. Overexcited stress response: If you tend to become angry, agitated, overly emotional, or keyed up under stress, you will respond best to stress relief activities that quiet you down. Underexcited stress response: If you tend to become depressed, withdrawn, or spaced out under stress, you will respond best to stress relief activities that are stimulating and energizing.

Segal says the five senses that include touch, smell, sight, taste and movement can help alleviate stress.

“Look at a cherished item, smell something you like-such as a fresh spritzer, taste something that revives a good memory or a light gum, do a little exercise like walking or dancing, you may even play a favourite song-all this will help you manage stress, but not end it,” she says.

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