Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Keep your cool this December: Be aware of stress & it’s impact

Maybe there was a point where you realized December used to mean excitement about holiday vacation, holiday treats and presents and it started to mean stress about finals, buying gifts, coordinating travel plans and planning family engagements.

Whether you’re a college student trying to wrap up end of semester exams and papers on a good note, or anyone else dealing with the expectations and excitement of the upcoming holiday season, it’s likely you’re experiencing some stress as 2015 comes to an end.

You’re not alone. Almost 50 percent of the 2,500 americans from across the country surveyed in this study said they had experienced some significant stress in the last month. Common sources of stress include health concerns, financial concerns and being overwhelmed with responsibilities. Age, income and gender are linked to the types of stress an individual experiences. Older folks are more likely to stress about their personal health, whereas young people are more likely to worry about having many responsibilities. Women are more likely to report that money is stressing them out.
Check out this interactive tool from the American Psychological Association that you can click around on to see the physical effects of stress on the body.

Stress isn’t always a bad thing, especially since it often serves as a motivator or can be the result of a positive event, like a new relationship. This positive stress is eustress. However, experiencing stress over long periods of time can contribute to chronic illness and can lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as under or over eating. The contribution of stress to disease varies based upon genetic susceptibility, personality, social support and coping style. Active coping styles, which aim to alter the nature of the stressor or the way the stressor is thought about, are generally accepted as better for immune system health and emotional adjustment, as compared with avoidance styles. Some active coping strategies include support-seeking, humor, physical recreation, adjusting expectations and relaxation. Women are more likely than men to see relationships with family and friends as important to them, making support-seeking a common strategy for many women. Men are far more likely to exercise once or more per week than women, making physical recreation a more common coping strategy for men. Doing what works for you and what reflects your values is important in creating a plan for stress management.

The next posts will offer some tips for reducing and managing stress through active and proactive coping strategies.