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Everyday Stress or Stress as Mental Illness: You Have to Know Before Applying Stress Management Techniques

Stress is a part of life. All of us have to deal with different kinds of stress on a daily basis. Problems occur, however, when stress is chronic and a person is unable to obtain relief. When this happens, stress can affect us mentally and emotionally. If stress is too overwhelming for too long, a person can feel that they are going under. They may even wonder if they are going crazy. To help you evaluate where you stand with stress, this article will go over the types and symptoms of stress.

Normal symptoms of stress include anger, feelings of helplessness, temporary depression, churning stomach, tense muscles and emotions. Abnormal stress symptoms include suicidal thoughts, ongoing depression, anxiety, mood swings, chronic anger, and phobias amongst others. These psychological symptoms may be written off as mental health issues but they are likely to still be the result of stress and fear.

Different factors can make it hard for people to cope with the same amount of stress. If someone is already coping with illness, then it may be harder to cope with additional stresses. If a personal has insufficient coping skills, limited education and lack of access to support, stress can become overwhelming. Depending on what else is going on in a person’s body and mind, different types of stress management strategies may be appropriate. A proper diagnosis will determine whether some of the stress induced symptoms have a medical or psychological basis.

There are many stress management strategies that are universally helpful, however some methods of coping with stress may actually be harmful for certain psychological conditions. For example, with Multiple Personality Disorder (now termed Disassociate Identities) visualization techniques may cause a problem.

We are all different so it only makes sense that different stress management strategies will have various impacts depending on the person. Ordinary people who are dealing with everyday stresses commonly cope with their stress by avoiding stressors that can be avoided, planning ahead of time (like leaving home fifteen minutes early to avoid traffic jams), preparing (like studying ahead of time for an exam, not just the night before) and making new decisions. For example, if your job is highly stressful, think carefully about your situation and if necessary change jobs. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do to avoid or reduce stress in the situation itself, you have to leave.

However, common stress management techniques will not work for everyone, particularly if a person is suffering from mental illness. For example, there is a story about how a young psychotherapist conducted a class teaching stress management techniques that was open to everyone. Unfortunately, there was no discussion with individuals or taking of personal information beforehand. Everything seemed to be going well and he could see some people visibly relaxing as they did their breathing exercises and began to visualize according to the instructions. The sharp tension that had been in the room gradually lessened and the young psychotherapist was feeling happy with the results. Suddenly, a young woman who had been sitting quietly against the back wall, jumped up and ran out of the room in a panic. The psychotherapist later discovered that she suffered from Dissociate Identities and the process of visualizing other people in different environments was actually a threat to her own identity.

While this is certainly unusual, it can happen so it is important that stress management practices are targeted to individual needs and circumstances. We have a large part to play in this ourselves, but so too do professionals who seek to aid us in coping with the various stressors in our lives.

Yet, the young psychotherapist did not do a bad job. He just didn’t do a thorough one. In this scenario, the young woman was sitting next to an older man who just oozed tension. He had a stressful job and had had a particularly bad day. In his case, the stress reducing activities worked wonders. He released the built up tension in his body, his mind relaxed and he felt calm and peaceful again. The difference between the two examples is that one person was a normal healthy person dealing with an overload of stress whereas the other person was dealing with a psychological illness. For stress management to be effective, we have to know what we are dealing with. We also have to be willing to take the time to discover what stress reduction strategies work best for us.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Terry@ building self esteem May 26, 2008, 6:34 am

    Just wanted to let you know that I reposted your post from Shareapost and wanted to introduce myself to you. We seem to have similar themed sites.

    I am ahppy to have reposted your article as I felt it both informative and well written. It is on my main home page.


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