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Are You Stressed?

Dr. Greg Allen, Ph.D., LMFT, Special to the News | 

Are you able to recognize your daily stress level?

Are you able to identify stressors in your life? How do you cope with stress? It's become an accepted fact of daily life that we life with stress, in stress and are stressed.

Consider these stress warning signs and symptoms from to see how they apply to your life:

Cognitive symptoms: memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, seeing only the negative, anxious or racing thoughts, constant worrying

Emotional symptoms: moodiness, irritability or short temper, agitation, inability to relax, feeling overwhelmed, sense of loneliness and isolation, depression or general unhappiness

Physical symptoms: aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, loss of sex drive, frequent colds

Behavioral symptoms: eating more or less, sleeping too much or too little, isolating yourself from others, procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities, using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax, nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

Common external causes of stress: major life changers, work, relationship difficulties, financial problems, being too busy, children and family

Common internal causes of stress:

Not all stress is caused by external factors; stress can also be self-generated: inability to accept uncertainty, pessimism, negative self-talk, unrealistic expectations, perfectionism, lack of assertiveness

Things that influence your stress tolerance level:

- Your support network — A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against life’s stressors. The more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.

- Your sense of control — If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, it’s easier to take stress in stride. People who are vulnerable to stress tend to feel like things are out of their control.

- Your attitude and outlook — Stress-hardy people have an optimistic attitude. They tend to embrace challenges, have a strong sense of humor, accept that change is a part of life, and believe in a higher power or purpose.

Your ability to deal with your emotions — You’re extremely vulnerable to stress if you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry or afraid. The ability to bring your emotions into balance helps you bounce back from adversity.

- Your knowledge and preparation — The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less traumatic than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately.

There is another dynamic of unhealthy relationships that can lead to stress; I call it “not being able to say no.” There are many internal reasons for this unhealthy behavioral pattern including: wanting to get along, not wanting to experience a conflict, feeling that you won’t be liked if you disagree, feeling like you need to rescue or save others, feeling a need to be needed by others, feeling like you don’t have a right to disagree or have an opinion.

These behavioral motivations may be mild or moderate. These individuals live with a lack of assertiveness or personal empowerment. In turn, these feelings will contribute to internal and relational stress.

These unhealthy behavioral patterns are usually formed in the primary relationships of childhood. Children form opinions of themselves and their world from the experience of their family life. Whether we like it or not, parents are role models. Children learn from what their parents do. It is important that parents learn to manage their own stress, maintain healthy communication and seek to have healthy balanced adult lifestyle.

Stress is a reality in our life. Pay attention to your body, mind, emotions and relationships. Integrate the healthy things that influence your stress tolerance level so that you can live a life that also has peace and joy. Lastly, don’t forget it’s OK to chill out.

Dr. Greg Allen, LMFT, is a therapist practicing in Palos Verdes Estates and Hermosa Beach. He is also the founder and director of Freedom4U ( He may be reached at

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