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Sharp Health News

Surprising stress triggers and how to handle them

May 9, 2019

Surprising stress triggers and how to handle them
Stress can be bad for you — that much is clear. However, stress also can serve a purpose. Whether it's to get you out of a dangerous situation or signify that something in your life — your job, relationship, lifestyle — is not serving you well, stress can be a sign that it's time to make changes, big or small, to improve your well-being.

"Remember, stress is the body's reaction to situations that require attention and energy, so stress hormones are released in order to give us energy to problem-solve and motivate action," says Dr. Suhair Erikat, a doctor of behavioral health and a marriage and family therapist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital.

"When we're not able to recognize stress when it immediately arises, it turns into anxiety, which causes brain fogginess and can hinder clarity in thinking and problem-solving abilities," says Dr. Erikat.

You may be well-aware of some of the top stress triggers, such as serious illness, death of a loved one, financial struggles, job change, relocation or divorce. However, if you allow small stressors to build up over time, they could be equally problematic.

Small stress triggers can include:
  • Traffic: congested traffic, road rage and long daily commutes
  • Work: co-worker tension, difficult bosses and work overload
  • Relationships: lack of trust, arguments with loved ones and loneliness
  • Poor nutrition: too much caffeine, processed foods and refined sugars, or not enough nutrition
  • Emotions: unresolved resentment, anger or hurt (even from childhood)
  • Media overload: TV, radio, internet, email and social networking
  • Sleep deprivation: exhaustion and inability to release adrenaline and other stress hormones
According to Dr. Erikat, it is important to be mindful of when you are stressed by noticing your thoughts, emotions and action urges. Pay particular attention to physical tension. Learning how to recognize physiological changes in the body will allow you to then intervene to reduce the tension, thus, reducing the mental impact.

"In a moment of stress, try to engage in relaxation techniques," she says. "This can include taking a few deep breaths, taking a break from the stressful situation, progressive tensing and releasing of the muscles (PMR), self-soothing and using compassionate self-coaching statements — things you might say to a good friend when showing them compassion."

To further manage daily stressors, Dr. Erikat recommends you build the following into your routine:
  • Regular physical activity
  • Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or massage
  • Keeping a sense of humor
  • Socializing with family and friends
  • Setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music
If small daily triggers or larger life challenges lead to severe psychological stress, professional mental health treatment may be required. Some signs to watch for include chest pain; changes in diet, sleep or sex drive; feeling anxious, irritable or overwhelmed; and lack of motivation, focus or interest in things you formerly enjoyed.

"It's important to seek help when these symptoms arise or when they begin to interfere with daily functioning," Dr. Erikat says. "Remember, you're not alone and while some pain or stressors are manageable, other stressors and their related symptoms might require professional care."

Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital provides comprehensive services for people of all ages experiencing serious behavioral and emotional problems, including anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. Call 858-836-8484 to learn more.

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