I don’t know why it’s depressed, poor thing. Perhaps it’s lost its zest for life.
With the recent recession’s layoffs, soaring prices and piled-on workloads, many people have succumbed to stress. Their energy levels are at an all-time low. Zest? Forget it. They feel sick, defeated and angry. I’m one of them. My job is in jeopardy.
What are the most common symptoms of stress?
- Chest pain
- Stomach problems
- Anger and irritability
- Overeating or lack of appetite
- A feeling of defeat or despair
- Substance abuse
Stress can steal your zest. It also causes serious illness if not addressed.
- Heart disease. Yes you can have a heart attack from stress. If you experience chest pain that won’t go away, numbness or pain in your jaw or arm, nausea or vomiting, call 911 immediately. Don’t try to drive yourself to the hospital or go with someone; ambulances have medical support you may need.
- Stroke. Numbness or paralysis on one side of your body, loss of balance, confusion, trouble talking or seeing, and the worst headache ever are signs of a stroke. If in doubt, call 911. Time is of the essence here.
- Depression. Fatigue and feelings of hopelessness, lack of concentration, sleeping too much or too little, thoughts of death or suicide all mark major depression. Often people think of it as simply a sad feeling that a person can banish with the right attitude. It’s not.
Serious depression, whether it’s situational or chronic, causes changes in brain chemistry. If left untreated, it results in substance abuse problems, physical illnesses and death by suicide.
- Migraines. Throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, visual and auditory sensitivity and nausea are some symptoms. These painful headaches sideline you and keep you from accomplishing anything until they pass.
How do you handle stress and regain your zest? There are several things you can do to start.
1. Visit your doctor.
Make sure your symptoms aren’t coming from illness. There may actually be something wrong that stress has either caused or worsened. Treatment may actually relieve it.
2. Remember to breathe.
When we’re agitated, our breathing quickens and becomes shallow. We don’t get enough oxygen, which makes the stress worse. Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, and blow it out slowly through your mouth. Pretend you’re blowing out a candle some distance from you. Do this several times and remember to do it slowly. This will ease your heart and respiration and calm you.
3. Try to let go of things you can’t control.
Boy, is this a hard one for me! You have no say over what other people do, but you do over how you react to it. Sometimes under conditions of chronic stress, people’s response mechanism becomes extremely sensitive, so things that ordinarily would not bother them trigger an outsized reaction. This can be physically exhausting.
Let it go. Remember what you do when your kid throws a tantrum. If you freak out on someone who attacks you, it only makes the situation worse. Take that slow breath and keep your cool and the other person looks like the raving fool.
4. Set your priorities and take them one at a time.
If it’s work stress, know that you can only do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is a myth. Our brains can’t do it. Get done what you can and don’t worry about the rest until you get to it.
5. Find the humor.
Even if it’s the blackest comedy anyone ever conceived, you can find humor in almost every situation. Look at cops. They have some of the darkest gallows humor on the planet. It keeps them from screaming.
Naturally, you will not want to joke about things that others are taking seriously. Remember Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of AFLAC’s duck. One ill-timed tsunami joke, and he’s quacking to a pink slip. People do use humor to cope but when it’s not your disaster, it comes off as tasteless.
6. Eat right and get plenty of sleep.
You need to take care of your health. No one else is responsible for that but you.
If you’re trying all you can and still not getting anywhere, find a qualified counselor. There’s no shame in asking for help. The counselor will help you identify your stressors and deal with them. Above all, don’t lose hope. Life is change and nothing lasts forever. Your zest will be back before you know it.