Sit back, relax, and think about your stress response


April 17, 1994|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

Yesterday was National Stress Awareness Day, sponsored by the Health Resource Network. I wish I could write a cute, tongue-in-cheek column about this event -- do you know any working woman who isn't acutely aware of the stress in her life?

Instead, just in case you've been living in a cave in Tibet or haven't had 90 seconds of spare time for the last, oh, 10 years or so in which to think about the stress in your life, here are 19 questions to ask yourself whenever you manage to find those 90 seconds:

* Do I feel burned out, anxious, irritable, overwhelmed or tired all the time, even after a good night's sleep?

* Has my normal sleep pattern changed? Do I have trouble falling or staying asleep? Have there been changes in my normal eating pattern? Have I lost or gained weight lately?

* Am I easily angered or upset by normal, uncontrollable events such as traffic jams, weather patterns, malfunctioning machinery equipment, or being put on "hold"?

* Do I feel chronically rushed, never able to pause or take a deep breath because my tasks seem never-ending? Am I talking more quickly than usual, finishing people's sentences for them, interrupting in other ways or talking louder than I usually do?

* Have I been suffering from chronic unexplained stiff necks, headaches, backaches, intestinal or stomach upsets?

* Do I find myself blushing or perspiring more than usual? Do I often have cold hands or feet when no one else does? If I'm post-menopausal, have I had more hot flashes than usual?

* Do I often find myself clenching or grinding my teeth?

* Am I drinking or smoking more than usual or self-medicating with over-the-counter tranquilizers or sleeping aids?

* Do I seem to be more accident-prone than usual? Have I had one or more car accidents lately that were my fault or been stopped for speeding or other violations?

* Is it harder and harder for me to get up in the morning? Do I start to dread Monday mornings as soon as Friday evening finally arrives?

* Do I often lose my temper or burst into tears without knowing why?

* Do I feel as if I am neither paid enough nor appreciated at work? Does it seem as if there's never enough time to finish my work? Does my job consist of one crisis after another?

* Has my normal sex drive changed in any way? Is my marriage in trouble?

* Are my other personal relationships less satisfying to me or in trouble?

* Do I often feel ashamed about the way I parent my children? Have I been verbally or physically abusive? (If so, call your local help hot line now!)

* Do I feel as if my boss is always criticizing me? Am I missing a lot of work either because I can't drag myself out of bed in the morning, or because I'm hung over?

* Do I feel as if no one understands or appreciates me?

* Do I feel as if I spend all my time taking care of other people while no one takes care of me?

* Has it been difficult for me to answer these questions honestly, either because I don't like my own answers or I'm just too harassed and distracted to think clearly?

There's no score card for your answers to these questions. Nevertheless, how you answered them -- and how you felt while you did so -- should provide you with good information about the level of stress in your life.

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