Seize the Day! Unchecked Stress

By Cindy Klapperich, NDSU Extension – Sargent County

SEIZE THE DAY!  (For publication in The Sargent County Teller,  May 21, 2021 issue.)

Consequences of Stress Going Unchecked

Stress is definitely one of the things that we need to “take care of” sooner, rather than later.  Like an untreated wound, when stress is ignored, it can quickly worsen.  The results of not taking action to reduce stress can be nasty:

  • Health challenges
  • Compromised relationships
  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Depression

Unchecked, stress can wreak havoc on our health because of its negative impact on our immune system.  When our immune system is down, we are more vulnerable to illness, and pre-existing medical conditions can worsen.

When stress escalates, emotions such as irritability and anger can flare up, causing relationships to suffer.  Relationships also suffer when communication shuts down as a casualty of stress.

If stress consumes physical and emotional energy to the point of exhaustion, feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope can result, causing what is commonly referred to as “burnout.”

To manage stress effectively:

  • Pay attention to the warning signs of stress when they first show up. 
  • Identify what is causing the stress.  Causes vary greatly between people.  What one person finds extremely stressful can be “no big deal” to someone else, and vice versa. 
  • Be clear with yourself about what you can influence, control or change, and what you cannot influence, control or change.  Sometimes we can modify a situation by changing something in our environment or in our schedule.  Sometimes we can change the way we view or perceive a situation.  In other words, we can change our perspective.  In most cases, we can choose how we will respond to the situation.

Healthy ways to reduce stress are as varied as the causes of stress.  Choosing a stress reducer that “matches” to the stress symptoms is one approach to consider.  For example, if the stress symptoms you are experiencing are things like tension or tightness in shoulders or neck, upset stomach, or other physical symptoms, activities that are physical may be most helpful to reduce stress.  Consider walking or running/jogging, bicycling, swimming, weight lifting, calisthenics, gardening, or taking a bubble bath.

If stress tends to produce mental symptoms such as worry or difficulty making decisions or concentrating, mental relaxation activities like listening to relaxing music, reading for the fun of it, meditation, or puzzles of any kind may be the most effective at relieving the stress.

Stress reducers don’t have to be elaborate or time consuming to be effective.  Anything that gives you a break and helps you relax even for a few minutes can be helpful.

Call 701-724-3355 or email for more information on stress and stress-reducing activities.

Adapted from course materials for Powerful Tools for Caregivers.

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