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May 6, 2008

Stress Management

I've had quite a bit of stress surrounding finals week. The worrying actually distracted me from studying and so I may not have performed as well on a couple of my exams as a result.

Worry: 1 a: mental distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated : anxiety b: an instance or occurrence of such distress or agitation
2: a cause of worry : trouble, difficulty

Physical effects of stress: a cascade of biological chemicals floods the body including adrenalin, norepinephrin and cortisal. The body reacts to these chemicals by increasing blood flow to large muscles and decreasing blood flow to skin. Pupils dilate, and blood sugar levels go up. At the same time, digestive and reproductive functions go down, growth hormones are switched off, and the immune system is inhibited. Prolonged exposure to stress increases your risk of everything from heart disease, obesity, and infection to anxiety, depression, and memory problems.

Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Your true sources of stress aren’t always obvious, and it’s all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.

I've taken up running to deal with my stress, and while I'm becoming more healthy (at least that's one less worry) and have lost a bit of my middle-aged belly, it is not adequately addressing my mental stress. Some suggestions for dealing with internal stressors such as worrying follow:
1) imagine the worst case scenario--how bad would it really be if I fail?
2) change my internal talk--catch when I worry about inadequacy and change it to competence
3) make time for worrying--keep a journal and write down your worries with a mental note to worry later (which, interestingly, you don't have to do)
4) pray or meditate--observe the worrying thoughts as they move across your mind but don't dwell on them
5) use a little worry to motivate, prioritize and act--don't procrastinate

I didn't do so great on everything during my finals, but I passed everything well enough to stay in school--I'm not perfect, but I can dwell on the positives.

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Posted by linda at May 6, 2008 9:03 AM

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