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What is Stress?

Stress is part of being alive and affects everyone. Some stress is desirable while other stress can create fatigue or damage a person to the point of malfunction or disease. Whether stress is beneficial or detrimental usually depends on a person’s reaction to a certain event or condition.

Effects of Harmful Stress

If stress is not managed properly, it can create stress-induced diseases which affect the immune system. When stress is experienced, hormones released in our bodies can alter the way the immune system works, thereby increasing the body’s susceptibility to viruses and bacteria.

Ways to Manage Stress

There are several ways to plan for and cope with stress, but it is also important to keep in mind that professional help may be needed if your stress level is too intense.

Some ways to reduce stress may include:

  • Accepting what you cannot change.
  • Analyzing your perceptions of yourself, your environment or your future. Exaggerated or distorted expectations should be replaced with realistic and moderate perceptions.
  • Examining your interpersonal involvement and deciding if there is more that could be done to receive the understanding, caring and feedback that you want from others.
  • Leaving much of your time unstructured or taking the day off to do what you want.
  • Nourishing your sense of humor to avoid taking yourself or your environment too seriously.
  • Committing to a regular but realistic exercise program that may include 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise four times a week.
  • Setting realistic expectations and doing the best you can. Remember, nobody is perfect.
  • It also may be important to develop a personal plan to help anticipate and cope with predictable stressors. You may want to start by:
    1. Assessing the main source of your stress and developing alternatives for reducing stress.
    2. Identifying how you have managed stress in the past and assessing how well it worked.
    3. Assessing your current strengths, resources and abilities to cope with stress.
    4. Implementing your plans and evaluating them.

After a reasonable period of time, determine if your stress management strategy is working.

How can I find Professional Help to Manage My Stress?

If your stress level seems too overwhelming to manage, you may want to seek some professional help to work through it. Treatment is best accessed by calling your personal physician, local community health center, mental health facility or clinic, or general hospital. Other informational resources may include family service agencies, self-help groups and counselors at work or school.

How Can I Relax?

Sometimes it can be difficult to relax under certain circumstances. To help, there are a variety of techniques and disciplines that you use to produce relaxation. You may want to try inhaling and exhaling slowly with your mouth closed. Those experiencing stress tend to breathe in short, shallow breaths. Breathing slowly provides you with maximum oxygen and forces you to relax.

You also might want to try meditation, which can:

  • Slow down body processes by decreasing oxygen consumption.
  • Decrease metabolism, heart rate and cardiac output.
  • Increase reaction time and the amount of slower brain waves needed for rest.
  • Improve coordination, perception and auditory ability.

What is Job Stress?

Job stress is a part of being in the work force and it affects everyone. It is the pressure on the job that makes you feel tense, nervous, anxious or even upset. You experience tension when you are exposed to situations or people that intimidate, aggravate, exacerbate or even exhilarate you. Job stress can be either positive, by challenging you to excel and succeed, or negative, by leaving you feeling frustrated, angry, tired and even depressed.

Who is affected by Job Stress?

Nearly everybody, to some degree, is affected by job stress in their working environment. The causes of job stress may vary, from your job’s demands and your career expectations, to interaction with your co-workers, supervisors, and surrounding work environment. How one deals with work related stress depends on various factors, some include:

  • Personality – Those who are extremely ambitious, competitive, or impatient may be especially prone to the effects of job stress.
  • Job Description – Some types of jobs and work situations are inherently more stressful than others. If your job is dangerous, or if you face demanding deadlines, you may be under a higher degree of stress.
  • Life Changes – Divorce, a family death, legal problems, or even a promotion or marriage can reduce your emotional resources and make you more vulnerable to stress both on and off the job.
  • Other Factors – Your age, health, financial situation, and general life satisfaction all affect your individual reaction to stress.

What are the Recognizable Symptoms of Stress?

Physical Signs

  • fatigue
  • tension headaches
  • upset stomach
  • sleep problems
  • backaches / muscle tension
  • weight loss
  • high blood pressure
  • nervousness
  • change in appetite

Emotional Signs

  • irritability
  • hostility
  • anxiety
  • loss of self-esteem
  • feelings of helplessness
  • withdrawal from friends and relatives
  • loss of concentration
  • inability to appreciate or enjoy life
  • substance abuse

Ways to Manage Job Stress

There are several ways to cope with undue amounts of work-related stress. It is important to note that some cases may require professional help if the stress level is too intense. Ways to reduce stress include:

  • Maintaining good, healthy habits by exercising regularly, eating right and getting enough sleep. Avoid alcohol and other drugs.
  • Using your work time wisely. Set goals that are challenging, yet realistic, and prioritize tasks (tasks for now and later).
  • Work at a steady pace – don’t procrastinate – and take time to assess your workload and productivity. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take a break, recollect yourself, and regain your energy.
  • Improving your work habits by identifying your sources of stress, managing your time effectively and discussing any problems with your boss or co-workers. Be positive and realistic.
  • Learning to relax. Try these simple exercises at work to help relieve unhealthy and unwanted stress:
    1. Breathing exercise – Close your eyes and take slow, deep, regular breaths. Breathing slowly provides you with maximum oxygen which helps you relax.
    2. Visualization – Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a calm, peaceful place.
    3. Stretching – Simple stretches are a quick way to relieve stress and soothe tired muscles.

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