SIKESTON -- Juggling the demands of work and graduate school while maintaining a social life can often be overwhelming for first grade teacher Kristina Roslen of Sikeston.
But the 26-year-old knows when she's reached her stress limit.
"I become very emotional," Roslen said. "I get headaches and can be irritable, and sometimes I have anxiety attacks."
Roslen admitted she doesn't cope well with stress, but doing things like going out, spending time with family and friends and having alone time are ways she deals with it.
"I think stress is common for everyone, or at least everyone I know," Roslen said. "Perhaps, the causes and levels of stress are different for everyone, but stress is still there to some degree. You just have to find ways to deal with it and keep going."
Ron Steinmetz, executive director at Bootheel Counseling Services in Sikeston, said stress is actually a good thing because it's a good motivator.
"But chocolate is a good thing, too," Steinmetz said. "It's just that too much of it is a problem."
To coincide with National Mental Health Awareness Month, Sikeston Mayor Michael Marshall signed a proclamation declaring May as Mental Health Awareness Month in Sikeston. Throughout the month, Bootheel Counseling staff members will present information to various organizations and individuals as well as conduct other events.
This year the theme, "Mind Your Health," focuses on the mind-body connection through the promotion of mental wellness and overall health for all Americans.
"Stress is really what gives us the motivation to go out and get things done," Steinmetz said. "Stress gets a real bad rap because when we talk about it, we don't talk about the healthy stress, which is eustress. We talk more of stress as distress, which is the unhealthy type of stress."
Common forms of positive stress include planning for a wedding, starting a new job or receiving a job promotion.
"As we're thinking of stress I think of people feeling overwhelmed with what's going on in their lives," said Taryn LeGrand-Lovett, clinical director at Bootheel Counseling. "I think it's really important that people recognize when they're feeling stressed out so that they can take care of that, but also to recognize limitations and that you can say no to things that people are asking you when you are already stretched to your limit."
According to the National Mental Health Association, 75 percent of visits to doctors' offices concern stress-related ailments. Almost half of the American population suffer physically due to stress. Chronic stress can affect the body in a number of ways: It weakens the immune system, which can cause fatigue and make people more susceptible to colds and flus.
Stress is even linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide, according to the American Psychological Association. Chronic stress can double a person's risk of having a heart attack and cause premature aging.
"People can have a predisposition to a lot of different health problems -- both physical and mental -- but they might lie dormant unless there is a something that triggers them," Steinmetz said.
Through research, the National Mental Health Association has found that individuals who actively focus on both mental and physical health lead happier, healthier and more productive lives.
Different relaxation techniques such as breathing and visualization are ways people can cope with stress, Steinmetz said. He recommended taking a 10-
minute vacation using all the senses.
"People should think about what it is that relaxes them because different things work for different people, like taking a warm bath or listening to music," LeGrand-Lovett said. "Each person knows what it is that helps them relax and they should try to do those if they can."
People should also take care of stress as it occurs, LeGrand-Lovett said. "Some people can become stressed with something but they don't really manage it or take care of it, and then other stressors occur so it keeps building, and I think it's really important that we take care of it as it occurs," LeGrand-Lovett said.
But not everyone can cope with stress on their own. Those who may feel like mental health issues are hindering them from leading full and productive lives are encouraged to consider seeking help for those issues.
"Stress is not something to avoid, but to embrace and manage," Steinmetz said. "The key is managing stress instead of stress managing you."