Managing Stress and Anxiety

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Stress is something that affects thousands of Canadians every day. When we become stressed or anxious, the nervous system releases chemicals that send alarm signals throughout the body, which then trigger an instinctive response known as “fight or flight.” When that fight or flight response is triggered, it means the brain perceives something as a threat. How you choose to handle that stress and anxiety, however, is crucial to your well-being, as if left unmanaged, it can lead to more severe mental health problems, such as depression.

If you’ve ever had a deadline to meet for school or work, have gone on a first date, or don’t know what you’re going to cook for a large dinner party you’re hosting, then you know exactly how stress and anxiety might feel. Along with work and school stressors, sometimes even the most positive of events can cause one to feel stressed or anxious – such as the birth of a baby or planning a wedding. Certain physical environments, such as unsafe living conditions, noise and traffic can also cause stress and anxiety.

Women are more likely to be affected by stress and anxiety than men. For women, the most common stressors include time constraints and family matters, while men say they feel more stressed and anxious with work and financial matters. Older adults are also at a much higher risk of struggling with stress and anxiety due to changes with their health. Levels of stress and anxiety are also at an increased high in today’s youth with having to balance school, activities, and friendships.

Along with affecting your mood, stress and anxiety can also impact the body. For example, you can develop muscle tension and pain, rapid heartbeat, upset stomach, diarrhea, fatigue and headaches. It’s also not uncommon for people dealing with extreme stress and anxiety to turn to alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and abuse drugs.

Because stress and anxiety affect everyone differently, it’s important to be able to identify triggers and find ways to cope. Sometimes coping with stress and anxiety can be as simple as writing down what you’re feeling stressed or anxious about, including writing a list of goals and solutions. Self-care, such as yoga and meditation can also help relax the mind. Other times, you may simply need to vent. For children and teens, many schools offer free counselling services. There are also private counselling services available throughout British Columbia, while your physician can also refer you to a psychiatrist.