Stress! Stress! Stress!      
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What causes all of this stress?
Top Ten Tips on Managing the Stress in Your Life

By Julienne B. Derichs LCPC

Stress is a commonplace fact of life. It is caused by the need to adapt to the many changes that we are confronted with in our day to day lives. How you react to these experiences determines the impact stress will have on your life.

Stress has become a factor in our culture in the last 20 years because of things that were originally designed to make life less stressful. Conveniences such as ATM machines, microwave ovens, and fax machines have made life easier in many ways, but they also have woven an expectation of instant gratification into our culture. And this causes stress.

Top Ten Stressful Life Events

9.Marital problems
8.Being fired from work
6.Personal injury or illness
5.Death of close family member
4.Birth of a child
3.Marital Separation
1.Death of a spouse

Most of experience stress from four basic sources:

Environment:  facing too many distractions,
traffic, pollution, and noise.

Social Stresses: E-mail, vague or confusing expectations, having to do unpleasant tasks, or meeting deadlines.

Physiological: poor nutrition, being sick, not getting enough sleep, or not enough time to relax.

Thoughts or Beliefs: “Always” and “Never” thinking, catastrophic interpretations of your experiences, the assumption those things are “done” to you, “Should”, “Must”, and “Ought” or Absolute thinking.

How You Know When You’re Stressed? 

Stress can manifest itself in both physical and psychological symptoms. Below is a checklist of some of the most common symptoms. Check all the ones that apply to you.

Physical Symptoms:

  • Headaches (migraine or tension)
  • Backaches
  • Tight muscles, muscle cramps
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Jaw tension
  • Nervous stomach
  • Nausea
  • Poor sleep
  • Fatigue, lack of energy
  • Diarrhea
  • Teeth grinding
  • Digestive upsets
  • Heart beats rapidly or pounds, even at rest
  • Appetite change

Psychological Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion or “spaciness”
  • Irrational fears, feelings of helplessness
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Forgetfulness
  • Feeling “overloaded” or “overwhelmed”
  • Feeling you can’t slow down
  • Mood swings
  • Loneliness
  • Problems with relationships
  • Unhappy with work
  • Frequent irritability
  • Frequent guilt
  • Temper flare-up
  • Crying spells

Evaluate your stress level as follows:

Number of items checkedStress level    
0 – 4Low
4 – 8Moderate
8 – 12      High
12 – 18    Very High

Top Ten Tips on Managing the Stress in Your Life

10. Acceptance
This includes the ability to accept and cope with setbacks. Ask yourself “How do I let myself make mistakes”?

9. Sense of humor
Humor creates lighter atmosphere and helps to put things into proper perspective. Can you laugh at yourself?

8. Social support
A solid support system is at the core of effective stress management. Look for opportunities to spend more time with people and in situations that make you feel good. Look for ways to increase time with them. 

7. Create a non-toxic environment
Some people and situations have a toxic effect on you. If you can, limit the amount of time you spend with them. Take a look at your home or work environment and ask yourself “Is it chaos or calm here”?

6. Sleep routine
Create a sanctuary in your bedroom. Keep your bed for sleeping.
  • Read in a chair
  • Remove TV
  • No eating in bed
  • Set a bedtime that allows for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and stick to it.

5. Manage the conflict in your relationships

  • Identify the sources of stress in your relationships. Write about them in a journal. Make a list of people who cause you stress and explore what the issues are.
  • Resolve the underlying issues. For each of the situations identified in step 1, assess what steps you could take to resolve the conflict. Make a list and design a plan to improve the situation.
  • Learn skills to improve relationships. Relationship skills are learned. We are not born knowing how to get along well with others, and most of us learned only limited skills from our parents. You can learn these skills by reading a book, taking a class, or working with a counselor.
  • Mini-breaks
  • Schedule 5-10 minute periods to relax during the day. 

3. Low stress eating
A healthy body is better equipped to handle the stresses in life, and good nutrition is the foundation of good health. 

  • Cut back on fats
  • Limit caffeine and sugar
  • Eat a variety of foods
  • Eat slowly
  • Concentrate on eating
  • Eat frequent and calm meals
  • Drink in moderation

2. Regular exercise
The human body was designed to be physically active. However, many of us are inactive for a large portion of the day. Exercise is one of the simplest and most effective ways to respond to stress. 

1. Breathing awareness 
Remember to breathe! Most of us hold our breath when we feel stressed. The lack of oxygen going to the brain causes an increased stress response. 

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Couples Counseling Today
Contact Julienne Derichs 
Call 773-562-3074 or email me at
Contact Julienne Derichs 
Call 773-562-3074 or email me at