When testing finally begins, it is time to stress out about the students who finish 90 minute tests in 10 minutes. You know they haven’t done their best, but there isn’t a single thing you can do about it. After that, the end of year activities pile up faster than can easily be accomplished. The stress builds with each passing day, while teachers try to cram in every activity, compile grades, file reports, and complete everything required to close out a year.
However, teaching is not the only stressful occupation. I often think about nurses and the importance of their job in caring for patients. It is a noble profession. But on top of the care giving, they are often under staffed and overworked. Unfortunately on top of that they have to deal with demanding physicians who want and need things done immediately. Even worse, they have to try to comfort and pacify angry relatives of their patients who think they aren’t doing enough fast enough. I don’t think I’d make it as a nurse.
Secretaries are also in a profession that is very stressful. If they do their job right, they get little or no praise. If their boss makes a mistake, they often blame it on their staff instead of admitting that they were negligent. Secretaries have to put up with demands from the public and demands from those in higher positions. Deadlines and paperwork are enough to drown secretaries in stress.
Maybe there is no such thing as a stress free job. On the surface, farming seems like a peaceful way of life. However, farmers are under stress because of weather conditions over which they have no control and machinery that has to be tended constantly. They are stressed by the fluctuation of market prices on their produce and gasoline prices to run their machinery.
Even if you get to be a stay at home parent or are retired, there is an endless string of things to add stress to daily life. Cars break down, appliances need to be repaired or replaced, air conditioners stop working on hot summer days. Children make bad grades or need stitches. Laundry piles up and meals need to be prepared. The list of demands on our lives is endless.
You may be suffering from symptoms of stress without even realizing it. The American Institute of Stress lists 50 symptoms of stress:
You may have frequent headaches, jaw clenching or pain, gritting or grinding of teeth. You may find yourself stuttering or stammering, speech that sounds mumbled, or experience trembling of lips or hands. If you develop insomnia, nightmares or have disturbing dreams over a period of days, it may be a result of stress. You may find that you have trouble concentrating on the task before you or trouble concentrating on the words that someone is speaking to you. Your thoughts may jump from one thing to the other, as well as your conversations. You may have trouble grasping new information, get confused easily, or find yourself forgetful and disorganized. Making decisions about simple things may seem complicated. You may find yourself feeling overloaded and overwhelmed.
Stress also reveals itself in your body. You may experience neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms, light-headedness, faintness, dizziness, cold or sweaty hands and feet. You may experience ringing in your ears, buzzing or popping sounds. If you have unexplained sweating, dry mouth, problems swallowing, frequent colds, infections, fever blisters, rashes, itching, hives, goose bumps, or frequent allergy attacks, any of these could be the result of stress. Heartburn, chest pain and palpitations, stomach pain, nausea, excessive belching of passing gas, constipation or diarrhea, difficulty breathing, or an increase in sighing don’t sound like symptoms of stress, but they can be. Increased or decreased appetite, sudden weight loss or sudden weight gain are indicators of stress. Constant tiredness, weakness, or fatigue may plague a person who is stressed out.
Stress can bring about emotional changes in a person, also. Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts, feelings of loneliness or worthlessness, nervousness, worry, guilt, increased anger, frustration, hostility, depression, mood swings, frequently running late, overreaction to little things, irritability, constant frustration, suspiciousness, sudden withdrawal from friends and family, and an increase in minor accidents are a red flag for someone suffering the effects of stress.
If a person begins to lie to cover up their mistakes or is constantly making excuses for being late, is less efficient on the job, starts forgetting appointments, or starts skipping responsibilities, there is a possibility that stress is the culprit. Changes in behavior like excessive gambling, impulse buying, watching television, staying on the computer, increase in smoking, drinking, or using drugs may also flag a person who is under a severe amount of stress.
There probably isn’t one person on the planet that hasn’t experienced stress in one form or the other. Stress drains us of our best selves. So, how can we release stress from our lives?
The first step is to recognize that stress is creating problems in your life and try to identify any changes that indicate stress is having a negative effect on your daily life. Once you realize that is the source of one or many changes going on in your body and/or emotions, you can begin to take charge of it.
If one particular thing or even an interaction with one particular person is causing your stress, you may simply be able to avoid that person or thing. Cut them out of your life if you have to. If the evening news makes you feel stressful, don’t watch it. If someone in your life is constantly quarreling about something, take a break from them.
Learn how to say “no” when people try to overload you with responsibilities, or try to persuade you to take on their responsibilities. Don’t volunteer for unnecessary tasks or extra workloads. Learn to express your feelings instead of bottling them up or letting things “build up” to a breaking point. Be assertive in your own behalf. Stand up for yourself when it is appropriate.
Make a list of goals that you must accomplish and attend to those first. Let less important matters wait until the big things are taken care of. Somewhere on that list, set a goal to relax, read, meditate, walk in the woods, swim, exercise, or do something that you know will make you feel better.
Be realistic about the things that you can get done in a reasonable amount of time and the things that you have the ability to accomplish. Learn to forgive. Leave the past in the past. Don’t waste your time on situations or people that can’t be change or don’t want to be changed. Use your time and energy for positive things. Look for the best in people, jobs, and any situation. Eat healthy. Think healthy. Exercise. Get enough sleep. Set time aside for relaxation and recreation.
Stress will find its way into every life at one time or another, but we don’t have to let it take control of our entire life.