No big surprise: Health concerns most common reason for stress

No big surprise Health concerns most common reason for stressA recent Robert Wood Johnson/Harvard School of Public Health survey on stress (4/14) indicated that the most common experience of stress by those surveyed was from health concerns (43%). This will not come as news to CreakyJoints members.

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

Clearly health issues, whether from chronic pain, or trying to find the best practitioner or medication, to the financial burdens that come from ongoing illness all create stress. And a lot of people are feeling it.

Here is a link to the full report:

http://media.npr.org/documents/2014/july/npr_rwfj_harvard_stress_poll.pdf

One of the hopeful pieces, which is also part of the report, is the list of ways people who are under stress deal with it.

The survey listed thirteen practices people use to manage their stress. These range from meditation to using their prescription medicine to being with a pet. They included taking time off, receiving professional help and eating well.

It is striking and encouraging that most folks are creating ways to help themselves deal with their demanding circumstances. One of the benefits of using activities to reduce stress is that most people found that what they did was effective.

They found they had some control over their stress and they put themselves in charge.

When people make a conscious deliberate choice to deal with their stress, it increases the relief. Once you make that choice on your own behalf, you are shifting the dynamic from stress being something that happens to you, and recasting your experience as something you choose and can control.

For example, think of a time when you felt overwhelmed and tired from coping with some aspect of your disease. Re-create the internal feelings of whatever was happening for you – frustration, maybe a dash of hopelessness, worry about the future – the whole bundle of stressed out responses to your life.

Now in that same imaginary scenario, see yourself choosing to do something that you know gives you some relief.

Maybe you sit down to a lovely meal of fresh healthy food that someone has prepared, or you brought in for yourself. Perhaps your best stress reliever is a conversation with someone who gets how difficult your life can be. You talk with them and feel understood and cared about.

Maybe you breathe and meditate and move gently. Think of whatever relieves your stress – and then remember a second strategy you use. Stay in your imagination for a moment.

You can probably feel your energy and your mood slightly improved. It doesn’t have to go from feeling awful to feeling great. Just a few notches better is good enough.

What some of my clients do is make a list on the days when they are feeling strong and clear. They write down all the things they enjoy doing to feel better. It’s too hard to really think of these things when you are feeling lousy. But when you have the list, on days that are bleak and hard, you remind yourself that there are some things you can do to help yourself.

Give yourself the luxury of those practices. You can make a difference in your own wellbeing!

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