Everyone feels stress at one time or another; it’s a part of living. A 2017 Gallup study reported that 79 percent of Americans “feel stress sometimes or frequently during the day.” Additionally, 41 percent of adults say they lack time to do all they want and 44 percent frequently feel stressed.

The American Institute of Stress identifies the number one cause of stress as job pressure brought on by tension between co-workers, relationships with the boss or work overload. Money concerns are the second most cited cause of stress followed by health, relationships, poor nutrition, media overload, and sleep deprivation.

However, it is important to remember that not all stress is bad. Positive stress can increase performance whether in competition or meeting personal goals and deadlines, like completing an education. Stress can be a lifesaver in a dangerous situation when the fight or flight response kicks in. But all too often, damaging stress goes unnoticed or unidentified until it has a stranglehold on the individual initially, many people will brush off the symptoms as minor irritants or refuse to acknowledge those symptoms until someone close brings attention to them.

Stress may be brought on by any number of circumstances: work, family, finances, relationships, current events, to name a few. Some stress is normal, but when stress begins to impact health, moods or behavior on an on-going basis, it is important to take steps to release the stress and regain physical and mental control.

Someone under stress can be edgy, impatient, jumpy or easily irritated. Unaddressed stress can lead to physical problems including high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue or sleeplessness. Someone under stress may experience an inability to focus, anger, depression or even suicidal thoughts. Stress can ultimately limit activities and endanger health and well-being.

No one can eliminate stress. However, stress management is possible and often necessary in order to live happily and healthily. People can learn techniques to manage stress including deep breathing, exercise, writing in a journal or talking with a trusted friend. Improving eating habits and avoiding smoking, alcohol and caffeine can also help.

If the symptoms of stress do not respond to self-help exercises and lifestyle changes, it is important to consult a medical or mental health professional.

Along with everyone else, Ron Benninghoff, a local hypnotherapist and owner of Phoenix Hypnosis, has experience with stress. Well into his long career as a computer programmer, Ron realized that the stress of his job was eroding his ability to enjoy his life. He reacted to the smallest things, his blood pressure rose alarmingly and once home each night, he did little but sleep.

On the advice of his doctor, Ron left his stressful job. This change offered the opportunity for Ron to go full time into hypnotherapy, an area he’s been studying and practicing for over 10 years. Stress management is one of the primary focuses of his work. He knows firsthand the damage stress can do and the value of finding ways to relieve that stress and regain control of one’s life.

Recognizing stress before it negatively impacts mental wellbeing, health or relationships is key. Stress management can come in many forms, self-help, professional medical or mental health services. Whichever approach is chosen, taking steps to reduce and relieve stress can be liberating and even lifesaving.

Sources: American Institute of Stress – Stress.org; Gallup – Gallup.com