Just for CNAs: Tips for Managing Your Stress

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As we come to the end of the year, the days get shorter and our "to do" lists get longer, right?  During the holiday season, it's common for stress levels to rise. Stress can come from big events or from the small problems of everyday life. Stress has physical and emotional effects that can be positive or negative. It may be the feeling you get when faced with a new and challenging situation or it may be the faint sense of anxiety you feel after “one of those days!”
When you think about it, in some ways, stress is like falling in love:
It’s different for everyone.
It often shows itself in strange ways.
It’s a powerful force that can do a lot of good or a lot of harm.
Stress affects you physically, mentally and emotionally. Physically, stress can be damaging to your overall health. Mentally, it can interfere with concentration and decision-making. Emotionally, stress can affect the way you interact with co-workers, loved ones and others around you.
Did you know that an estimated one million employees are absent from work every day due to stress? In fact, more than half of the working days missed in the U.S. are due to stress. The number of employees calling in sick because of stress has tripled in recent years!
Stress can have both short and long term symptoms.  For example, short term symptoms might be faster heart and respiratory rates and tense muscles.  Over the long term, these symptoms can turn into fatigue, difficulty sleeping and various aches and pains.
If you are stressed, you might also notice that you experience mood changes--like depression, frustration, impatience and restlessness.  You may find yourself distracted and unable to concentrate.  Or you may feel anxious, hostile or short-tempered.  So what can you do?
The first step to managing stress is to become aware of the things that make you feel stressed--and how those things make you feel.  If you skip this step, you'll have a hard time getting rid of stress.  So think about it:  what causes stress in your life?  Here are some common stressors:
"I never have enough time."
"It's hard for me to handle unexpected changes in plans."
"My kids/spouse really get to me!"
"I'm finding it hard to get my job done."
Once you have identified the causes of your stress, the second step is to decide if there is anything you can do about them.  If stress is caused by something out of your control, your only way out is to learn acceptance.  How?  Learn to let go of the things you can't do anything about.  When worries and fears are causing you a lot of stress, ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?" or "What would I tell a friend in this situation?"
Another way to move toward acceptance is to maintain a positive attitude.  It can be hard to smile when things go wrong.  However, if you keep a positive attitude, you're more likely to find a way out of the problem -- or learn to accept the situation.
The third step in stress management is to learn to cope with the unavoidable stress of daily life.  A great way to cope with stress is with exercise.  It helps the body tolerate the effects of stress and has a soothing effect that lasts long after you've exercised.
Doing fun things that you enjoy is another good way to relieve stress.  Find a hobby.  Plan for a garden in your back yard.  Go to a movie.  Read a book.  Get a massage.  Do whatever relaxes you and puts a smile on your face.
The last step for managing stress (that you can control) is to take action.  Many people find that if they change a bad habit into a good habit, they have less stress in their lives.  For example, if you are usually a night owl, try going to bed an hour earlier every night for three weeks.  See if it makes a difference in how "stressed out" you are.
Remember:  stress is a fact of life, but it doesn't have to be a way of life.  Take charge of your stress by meeting the demands of everyday life with these four skills:  awareness, acceptance, coping and action.
Linda Leekley BS, RN
Just for CNAs



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