September is Coast Guard Personal Readiness Month in recognition of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, National Recovery Month, and National Preparedness Month. All Hands will share important information through this series on how you can remain physically and emotionally ready, as well as ensuring your homes, property, and legal documents are ready as well.
Written by Tim Merrell, Office of Work-Life Programs
Get up, go to work, go home, eat dinner, go to sleep – get up and do it all over. Seems easy enough? But the reality is sometimes it is not easy. Getting up might be difficult if you aren’t sleeping well because of physical pain, financial stress, or a teething baby. Going to work might cause heartache when you wish you could be visiting your aging parent. Going home at the end of the day might be challenging if you are having marital problems. The laundry needs to be done, you need to go grocery shopping, and there is a pile of bills to pay – the list goes on and on.
So you’re stressed out? You’re not alone.
Stress is part of everyday life, but how you cope with it that makes a big difference in being resilient vs. having a physical or emotional crisis. Our bodies have subconscious coping mechanisms that take over when we face stressful situations.(1)
- Our adrenal gland releases adrenaline and cortisol
- Our body receives more oxygen through our respiratory and cardiovascular systems
- Our liver gives us a boost of energy by producing extra glucose.
- Our muscles tense up to protect us from injury.
The human body is designed to react quickly to prepare for an instantaneous response to stressful conditions. For most of us this type of response does not happen very often. But, our bodies react to stress the same way, whether we come face to face with a bear, or a consistently stressful job, stress is stress. Long term stress can be just as deadly as immediate stress (as long as the bear did not eat you), because the body needs to return to a normal condition quickly. People under prolonged stress, either physical or mental, do not allow the body to return to normal, and are more susceptible to ailments such as inflammation, obesity, depression, anxiety, musculoskeletal problems (neck and back pain), hypertension, or heart disease. If you are suffering from any of these maladies, it may be related to stress.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best ways to manage stress in hard times are through self-care.(2)
1) Avoid drugs and alcohol. They may seem to be a temporary fix to feel better, but in the long run drugs and alcohol can create more problems and add to your stress—instead of taking it away.
2) Find support. Seek help from a partner, family member, friend, counselor, doctor, or clergyperson. Having someone with a sympathetic, listening ear and sharing about your problems and stress really can lighten the burden.
3) Connect socially. After a stressful event, it is easy to isolate yourself. Make sure that you are spending time with loved ones. Consider planning fun activities with your partner, children, or friends.
4) Take care of yourself.
– Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
– Exercise regularly
– Get plenty of sleep
– Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out (treat yourself to a therapeutic massage, read a book)
– Maintain a normal routine
5) Stay active. You can take your mind off your problems with activities like helping a neighbor, volunteering in the community, and taking the dog on a long walk. These can be positive ways to cope with stressful feelings.
With a demanding job in the Coast Guard, it may be difficult to avoid stress, but it is not difficult to use the tools above to manage the stress in your life. If you need further assistance in dealing with your stress do not hesitate to contact your primary care provider or CG SUPRT (885-CG-SUPRT or www.cgsuprt.com). CG SUPRT offers free and confidential health and wellness coaching on the various aspects of stress management. Additional information is provided by the Office of Work-Life Health Promotions Program.
Just reach out!
- Healthline http://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body The Effects of Stress on the Body, Aug 25 2014.
- CDC http://www.cdc.gov/features/copingwithstress/ Coping with Stress.