Recognize when you’re stressed

If you feel irritable, have a hard time concentrating, have low energy or a hard time sleeping, you could be showing signs of stress.

In fact, it seems that most Americans are feeling stress these days.

The American Psychological Association’s 2010 Stress in America survey disclosed that stress is taking a toll on physical health, as well as the emotional well-being of individuals and families.

The majority of Americans live with moderate to high levels of stress but have a hard time making changes to cope with it. The survey also found that:

  • Two-fifths of surveyed adults reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods because of stress.
  • Nearly one-third of respondents said they skipped a meal because of stress.
  • More than four in 10 said they had lain awake at night.
  • The most common physical symptoms of stress reported were irritability (45 percent), fatigue (41 percent) and lack of energy or motivation (38 percent).

If you’re feeling stressed, take heart. There are some things you can do to manage your stress. The APA recommends that you:

  • Understand how you stress. How are your behaviors or thoughts different under stress? Do you have a harder time concentrating or making decisions? Do you lash out in anger? Or do you experience headaches, muscle aches or lack of energy?
  • Identify sources of stress. What triggers stressful feelings? Are these stress triggers related to family, health, financial decisions, work, or something else?
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress. Participate in stress-reducing activities like exercising, meditating, yoga or talking things over with friends or family. Reaching out for support from others is another important part of stress management.

It’s also important to take care of yourself with regular sleep, healthy eating and plenty of water.

The warning signs of stress should not be taken lightly, so listen to what your body is telling you.

By recognizing the triggers and understanding how you respond to it, you can healthfully manage and take measures to avoid the long-term problems associated with stress.