Toolkits & Resources



Stressed with Stress? Know Your Numbers Here, Too!

Submitted by Champion, Phil Wyzik


Organizational Champions, Monadnock Family Services

Ever heard the phrase, “Know your Numbers”?  It’s about a health promotion project designed to get people to know some important indicators of physical health risks like Body-Mass Index, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.  When it comes to the stress we all experience, however, there’s no lab test or simple way to objectively measure this mental health aspect of our well being. Still, the slogan is valuable to remember if you want to try to avoid the long term effect of stress that might put you at risk for physical and mental illnesses.

Stress is a physical, physiological, and emotional reaction to life events that most often we evaluate as negative or threatening. Whether real or imagined, this total-system response is hard wired into our being thanks to a tiny part of the brain called the amygdala.  This cluster of neurons is thought to be the center of our “fight or flight” reaction to bad things we perceive in the world around us.  To be sure, this is really helpful since, if we find ourselves in a burning building let’s say, our body signals us to either rush for the fire extinguisher or the nearest exit, depending upon how we evaluate this threat in a micro second of time.

But, for most of us, the negatives we perceive every day are things like financial worries, the loss of jobs or relationships, work or health problems, parenting, or other daily pressures like traffic jams, deadlines and schedules.  The stress they cause can show itself by memory problems, difficulty concentrating, moodiness, irritability, sadness,  constant worrying, nervous habits like pacing or finger nail biting, drastic changes in sleeping and eating habits, intestinal problems and isolation from others.  Symptoms like these mean the amygdala is stuck in high gear, according to some theories, but there’s more than one thing we can do about it.

And learn them we should since the consequences of prolonged stress or even periodic high levels of stress can be significant.  Indeed, unmanaged stress can lead to or exacerbate medical problems like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, gastro intestinal disorders, infertility and sleep disorders. Some in the field of stress research use the term “colossal” to describe the connection between stress and physical disease.

Know your (Coping) Numbers:
That’s where knowing what works for you is the key to your own victory over stress.  Take some time and think about the many ways you cope with stress today.  What’s the number one way to battle stress that works the best for you?  What’s your second best strategy?  How about your third?  What’s after that on your list?

The more you know these coping numbers, and the more methods on your list, the better prepared you might be to keep life happier and healthier.

Being conscious about your repertoire of healthy responses is the first step to creating a rich reservoir for coping.  To do this, you’ll have to think about those events in life that cause you symptoms of stress in the first place.  That knowledge is the starting point to building a stress-less lifestyle.