Many methods of stress management

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- As a result of conflicting demands at home and work, in combination with high cost of living and gasoline prices, the stress level experienced by today's Airmen is at an all time high.

Supervisors are advised to watch their subordinates for signs of stress, but what exactly is "stress"? Researchers define "stress" as a physical, mental, or emotional response to events that causes bodily or mental tension. The signs of stress may vary from person-to-person as well as from situation-to-situation.

Not all stress is negative. Depending how far you step outside of your "comfort zone", your level of stress will vary. Higher demands, shorter timelines, inexperience, lack of resource or support can result in the member's decreased ability to cope and higher perceived stress level.

Some people thrive on stress. Others prefer to remain in their comfort zone; however, it is by stepping outside of your comfort zone that you grow and learn how to manage and cope with demands. Success results in an expanded comfort zone.

You can enhance your ability to manage stress by eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting adequate rest, avoiding excess caffeine/alcohol, remaining within your financial limits, planning for the unexpected and maintaining good communication skills. Ask questions when you are uncertain of your expectations.

However, despite doing everything within your control you may find yourself experiencing overwhelming stress. Signs of significant stress may include the increased use of alcohol, behavioral changes (social isolation, deterioration in their appearance or work performance), cognitive changes (slow or poor decision-making, decreased memory or concentration), mood changes (continuously angry, sad, or irritable, and/or frequent mood fluctuations) or in severe situations, the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Help is available.

The key for success in stress management is the early recognition that you have overwhelmed your ability to cope. If you feel emotionally and physically "stretched thin", don't wait until you feel so overwhelmed that you feel helpless...seek help, talk to your friends/family/supervisor, or take a stress management class (such as one offered at the Health and Wellness Center,). Financial training and emergency loans are available at the Airman & Family Readiness Center. Other available resources include Family Advocacy Programs, Chaplain Services, Health and Wellness Center, Mental Health Clinic, the Area Defense Counsel, and Military One Source (www.militaryonesource.com).

Bottomline: If you feel stressed, you are not alone. Help is available. Practicing stress management will enhance your ability to cope and is a key to your success.