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Dealing with Stress and Your Self Care
NAMI McHenry County

Stress is the --- "wear and tear" our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings. As a positive influence stress can compel us into action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As a negative influence it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure,heart disease and stroke. As we adjust to different circumstances, stress will help or hinder us depending on how we react to it.

Self care is care directed towards yourself in a loving nurturing fashion with the same commitment you would have towards your loved ones. How we react to stress either
promotes or undermines effective self care and our ability to provide care to others.

When stress occurs it is important to recognize and deal with it. The following are some suggestions for some ways of handling stress.

Try physical activity. Remember your body and your mind work together. Physical activity can have a broad range of choices from gardening to running or walking.

Share your stress. Talk to someone about your concerns or worries. This could be a friend, family member, or clergy. Get involved in a support group and if you think your
problem is serious, you might seek professional help from a mental health professional. Sharing your worries or concerns can help you to see your problems in a different light.

Know your limits. If a problem is beyond your control and cannot be changed at the moment - learn to accept what it is for now - until such time when you can change it. Learn how and when to say "no".

Take care of your physical body. Regular and adequate sleep and eating well promote wellness and the ability to handle unpredictable or otherwise stressful life events.

Make time for fun. Both work and recreation are important to your well being.

It's OK to cry. Crying is a natural cleansing and a normal response to change and loss. It can bring relief to anxiety. Breathe and breathe deeply. This also releases tension and cleanses your physical body.

Experience beauty. Create a quiet scene painted mentally or on canvas - both can take you out of the turmoil of a stressful situation. Both can lower your heart rate creating true relaxation. Put on music, soothe your ears and just be. Eat one thing mindfully noticing its taste and texture. Enjoy a sunset or sunrise. Smell a rose. Have a massage or take a bubble bath. Give and receive a hug.

Use a written and visual journal. Allow yourself time to doodle. Doodle with words or images. Write about how you feel. Write about your thoughts or worries. Don't worry about grammar. When there are no words use color to say what you feel. Done on a regular basis you will find there are answers and patterns emerging for you thereby alleviating sysptoms of stress and instilling hope.

Avoid self medication. Although prescription or over the counter medications (or "street" drugs) may/do alleviate symptoms of stress they do not remove the conditions that caused the stress in the first place. Often they contribute to added stress. Such approaches to the management of stress are best left for acute cases of anxiety and should always be under the care of a doctor with close monitoring.

Experiment with a variety of self care outlets. What works for one may not be as effective with another. Keep at this with the same diligence that you do with your loved ones and it will surely strengthen everyone, aid your recovery and sustain hope.

Peg Speciale