Signature Stress… What’s Yours?
By Peggy Heerkens
There are a number of symptoms that we as humans experience when we're stressed. Below are a few of the most common. Which do you identify with?
P - Headache
P - Elevated blood pressure
B - Forgetfulness
B - Bossiness
E - Worrying
B - Compulsive smoking
E - Loneliness
E - Impatience
P - Stomachache
P - Fatigue
B - Yelling
B - Compulsive gum-chewing
E - Depression
B - Anger
E - Powerlessness
B - Teeth-grinding
P - Stiffness in neck/shoulders
B - Crying
B - Blaming
B - Compulsive eating
B - Agitation
E - Frustration
E - Inflexibility
B - Alcohol/drug usage
Notice the P, B, or E to the right of each symptom. Those letters indicate the type of stress symptom each represents: (P) Physiological, (B) Behavioral or (E) Emotional. Most people have a “signature” type.
Are you P-heavy, B-heavy, or E-heavy? Or are you a mix? The key below will indicate what you can do to counteract the type of symptoms you experience:
If you checked P's (Physiological): Engage in an exercise program and eat healthy foods, focusing on good nutrition (versus binge eating or going to the snack drawer) to manage and reduce those stress symptoms.
If you checked B's (Behavioral): Practice deep relaxation (meditation, progressive muscle relaxation), engage in activities that relax you and provide a sense of peace.
If you checked E's (Emotional): Learn how to increase your self-esteem (Yes, you can!), call on your support systems, especially unconditional support (special people in your life, faith, pets, special interests or hobbies).
The Mind-Body Connection
Have you ever heard someone say, “Yes, he complains about stomach issues, but it’s all in his head”? Well, that may be true! Psychosomatic illness or disease is a physical disorder brought on or made worse by one’s emotional state. A person may suffer physical symptoms as a result of mental anguish or stress. It’s estimated that 75-90% of all visits to doctors’ offices are due to stress-related ailments and complaints. Many studies have shown that the mind and the body are ultimately connected.
Stress can lead to a variety of issues:
Cardiovascular: heart pounding or racing, throbbing headache
Respiratory: shortness of breath, asthma attack, difficulty speaking because of poor breath control
Gastrointestinal: constipation, diarrhea, sharp abdominal pains
Muscular: headache, arthritis, back pain
Skin: acne, dandruff
Immunity: catching cold, skin rash, allergy flare-up
Emotional/Social: lack of concentration, wanting to cry or run away, edginess, increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, absenteeism from work, avoiding others
Metabolic: overeating, cravings, anxiety or nervousness.
And these are just a few examples. Stress can also lead to hypertension, stroke, migraine, severe backache, and ulcers.
Knowing your signature stress and taking action to counteract it can help you avoid these psychosomatic illnesses and diseases. Now that you know more about your signature stress, try to incorporate stress-reducing activities into your everyday life.
Stay tuned for Stress: Part 3 which will focus on an important factor in alleviating emotional stress.