By Brennon Dixson
Signal Staff Writer
With school back in session and the ups and downs of the public health restrictions, parents, students and employees across the Santa Clarita Valley might be feeling a bit more stressed or burnt out.
A Turbo survey revealed that members of Generation Z feel stuck in an unhealthy cycle of stress. But it’s not just Generation Z. More than 40% of all adults say they lie awake at night because of stress, according to American Psychology Association’s Stress in America survey.
“Although we all get stressed at some point in our lives, it’s critically important that we pay attention to it,” said Dr. Luis Sandoval, a psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Stress can cause serious health problems and significantly reduce your quality of life.”
The biggest misconception about stress is people associate it with just a feeling, said Krista Salkeld, a registered nurse at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. “But there is a physiological response in your body, as well.”
Salkeld said, “Stress causes increases in heart rate and blood pressure, which are both risk factors associated with heart attacks.”
According to Dr. Sandoval, other common symptoms of stress include:
Weight gain or loss
Stress may also manifest itself as an upset stomach, irritability, body pains, rapid breathing, sweaty palms, fatigue or the inability to concentrate, remember things and make decisions, Sandoval said.
One of the leading causes of stress is major life changes, regardless of whether they are good or bad. These include relationships, work, financial problems and even family obligations, according to the Kaiser Permanente website. Stress can build up over time, so it’s important to continuously evaluate the different aspects of life.
Luckily, when one is feeling stressed, there are a number of different options to reduce or alleviate the feeling, but it’s important to note there are coping methods and behaviors that are healthier than others.
“In times of stress, a lot of people will turn to drinking or smoking,” which is a risk factor for future heart problems, Salkeld said. “So, we try to teach our patients to manage their stressors by adapting their responses or changing the situations they find themselves in.”
Other patients have had success with stress journals, according to Salkeld.
“Some patients don’t have an outlet so keeping a stress journal is one way to vent out the day’s problems,” Salkeld said. “It’s also one kind of way to keep track of their day because, if you know what’s causing you stress, then you can learn to manage it better. So keeping a journal can definitely be helpful.”
Salkeld added, “Another one of the things that we teach our patients to do is pair down their to-do list during the week.
“Keep it limited,” Selkeld said. “Don’t save 20 things for the end of the week. Instead, maybe do two or three things a day, so the tasks are more manageable and you’re not stressing about all you have to do come the weekend.”
The registered nurse also had some tips for students.
“As far as homework: give yourself a timeline,” Salkeld said, mentioning parents can help children determine a reasonable time frame. “If you finish your homework by 5 p.m., then you have an hour outside to play. Having things like that can be a motivator.”
Other suggestions include:
Vacation is not just a time to get away and take a trip to a distant land.
The APA has noted that it’s important for employees to take time away from work to replenish and avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout.
“The majority of working Americans reported positive effects of taking vacation time and said when they return to work their mood is more positive, and they have more energy and motivation and feel less stressed,” the APA states.
“Additionally, working adults reported that, following time off, they were more productive and their work quality was better.”
If vacation isn’t an option for you or a loved one, the APA also states there are a number of other exercise-
related techniques that can effectively alleviate stress, including meditation, yoga, tai chi and other deep-breathing exercises.
“Exercising is a great relief,” Salkeld said, mentioning it’s one of the activities doctors in the cardiac rehabilitation program encourage patients to perform. “Even for patients who can’t do too much, it is especially important because it can increase the strength of their heart muscles.”
It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise that has you drenched in sweat and sore the next day, according to Salkeld. “Some people enjoy a simple walk outdoors, while others like to hike a few miles. Heart patients have different guidelines because some people can’t put too much stress on the heart, so sometimes it’s more about being outside and doing what you can.”