Health Report: The harmful effects of stress and how to manage it

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 4:11 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - April is Stress Awareness Month, and some may be unware of how harmful stress can really be to one’s health.

Everyone experiences stress now and then, and it’s important to recognize the harm stress can create.

According to Marissa Winter, a rural clinical supervisor for Tanana Chiefs Conference, stress can impact a person’s health in several different ways. Winter explained, “What we wind up seeing a lot, we see a lot of illnesses, people are calling in sick a lot, they’re not sleeping well, there’s just so many things that are happening from all the stress. It’s just like a consistent thing. So we’re always trying to push self-care and taking care of yourself, and knowing your boundaries and knowing how to say ’no’ to avoid these things that happen all that time.”

According to Winter, everyone is stressed by different factors, but there are some common causes of stress. “I would say some of the causes I see are family problems, maybe illness is in the family and causing stress especially with what’s been happening lately with COVID. So sickness in the family is causing a lot of stress. Over-stress at work, maybe taking on too many things at work, causes a lot of stress from what I’ve seen as the leading causes of stress recently, especially around COVID. Financial is always a big issue, that’s always causing stress and that’s where a lot of people are like ‘Oh no, I don’t know if I have personal leave to take this, I need to be able to make money for my family. I need to be able to support my family.’ If you have a loved one with mental or substance abuse issues, that causes a lot of stress within the family. So, we see a lot of people bringing that in a lot, and that’s what I would say I see as kind of leading causes of stress.”

When it comes to being overstressed, there are warning signs to look out for.

“When you see people burning out at work, it’s not always because of work stress. It could just be an overall stress that’s happening - so when you see someone all of the sudden who was coming to work on time and getting their work done, now they are late a lot and having a lot of issues and not able to keep up, or in your personal life if you see someone who is not communicating anymore all of a sudden and not available anymore. I think that the beginning signs are when you start saying ‘Hey we used to talk every week and now you’re nowhere to be found. What’s going on?’ Those are some of the warning signs that something is happening, just not being able to get in contact with someone, or they’re not communicating anymore, or they’re not doing well, or they’re having numerous problems or issues within their life,” said Winter.

According to Winter, it’s important to recognize and take measures to reduce one’s stress. While everyone one has their own methods for relaxing, it’s vital to take time to relax. Winter commented, “I think a major thing that I see a lot is just that sometimes we don’t have the best boundaries, and so we don’t know how to say ‘no’. Sometimes we feel obligated to do for our families and our friends and our bosses and our coworkers - and just being able to say ‘I’m overwhelmed, I cannot take that on,’ or ‘I’m sorry I cannot pick you up from the airport,’ and ‘no I don’t have an extra hundred dollars to lend you.’ When you take time for yourself it’s hard to do when you have family and friends and work and all of those things; but if you can, carve out some time for yourself to do whatever you want. It doesn’t have to be something specific like writing a journal or watching your favorite show or really, it’s just whatever you want to do at that time.”

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