Seeking Help is the First Step When Stress Affects Your Life 

Stress is an ever-present part of life, affecting us in various ways and intensities. It can sometimes serve as a motivator; however, chronic or overwhelming stress can lead to serious mental health issues like anxiety and depression.  

What is stress? Defined as a state of worry or mental tension triggered by challenging circumstances, stress is the body’s natural response that prompts us to address threats and challenges. However, when stress becomes chronic or unmanageable, it can worsen existing health conditions, lead to a diagnosable mental health condition and cause harmful coping mechanisms like substance abuse. 

“Stress is very vague.  It’s not a clinical or psychiatric term,” said Dr. Jacob Samander, a board-certified psychiatrist with Open Door Family Medical Center.  “In general, stress is a biological response that can be positive or negative.  Good stress can help you focus better on a test exam. Bad stress affects one’s ability to function on a daily basis.  It’s essential to recognize that stress affects everyone differently. Some individuals seem to handle stressful situations with ease, while others may struggle significantly.”  

“This difference”, he said, “is influenced by such factors as personality traits, upbringing, genetics, and life experiences. Stress is where external circumstances overwhelm you, where it affects your ability to function. You may be feeling more anxious or depressed. You may have more headaches or stomachaches and the doctors can’t find anything wrong.” 

“Seeking professional help is crucial when stress begins to overwhelm and disrupt daily functioning.” said Shonny Capodilupo, Senior Director of Behavioral Health at Open Door. “Recognizing the signs of stress is the first step in addressing its impact.”  

Integrating mental health services with primary care, as offered at Open Door, fosters comprehensive care. This holistic approach emphasizes collaboration among providers to address patients’ needs effectively. “Many referrals”, Capodilupo said, “come from primary care physicians at Open Door, who see their patients are struggling with the stress in their lives. It’s because of the integration of services – behavioral health and primary care – that we are able to address the whole person, working as a team toward wellness.” 

Like diabetes treatment plans that may include medication, lifestyle changes, and regular monitoring – stress management strategies encompass a range of interventions.  

“Acknowledging you have a problem and seeking help is a critical first step,” said Dr. Samander. “Remember, managing stress is a proactive journey that requires self-awareness, support from others, and a willingness to seek professional guidance when needed.”   

The Importance of Treatment 

Ignoring stress or attempting to manage it alone can lead to worsening symptoms and potential long-term consequences, according to experts. Just as diabetes requires specialized medical attention, stress can lead to anxiety, which often necessitates professional guidance from clinical therapists.  These professionals can conduct assessments, identify stress triggers, and develop personalized strategies to mitigate its effects. Similar to diabetes management, which begins with consulting a healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment planning, addressing overwhelming stress starts with recognizing its signs and seeking appropriate help.  

“The stigma surrounding mental health treatment remains a significant barrier for many individuals seeking help,” said Capodilupo, “which underscores the importance of addressing this stigma and promoting a more understanding and supportive attitude towards mental health issues. Despite progress in raising awareness about mental health, stigma still persists and hinders many individuals from seeking the treatment they need.”

To combat this stigma, education and awareness play crucial roles. Mental health providers like Capodilupo emphasize the need to demystify mental health issues, educate the public about their prevalence and impact, and promote a more empathetic understanding of these conditions. The analogy to a physical health issue is a powerful tool in this education process. Just as one would seek medical attention for a physical ailment that affects their well-being, it’s equally important to address mental health concerns promptly and without shame. Mental health conditions are real, treatable, and deserving of the same level of care and attention as physical ailments. Many mental health concerns, she said, can be effectively addressed with short-term interventions, counseling, or therapy. Understanding that treatment doesn’t always mean a lifelong commitment can alleviate fears and encourage more individuals to seek help when needed. 

“From a therapist’s perspective, we identify those patterns and beliefs and how they influence your behavior.  We look for strategies to address and interrupt the negative way you’re adapting and create positive ways to allow for healthier, more adaptive reactions and behaviors,” said Capodilupo.  “So, instead of snapping at your wife or kids when you walk through the door when you’re overwhelmed after a stressful day at work, maybe you sit in your car for two minutes, or take a walk around the block, when you get home. It is important to find your transition space before you walk through the door, knowing there may be the noise and chaos of an active family inside. You learn to pay attention to cues that allow you to step away before you respond negatively.” 

If you are in immediate distress or are thinking about hurting yourself, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or chat at 988lifeline.org.   

Ways to Reduce Stress Levels 

Adopting healthy habits can significantly reduce stress levels and promote overall well-being. These include: 

  1. Self-Care Practices: Engage in regular physical activity, prioritize restful sleep, maintain a balanced diet, and incorporate relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises. 
  2. Social Support: Stay connected with supportive friends, family members, or support groups. Having a reliable support network can provide emotional validation and practical assistance during challenging times. 
  3. Cognitive Strategies: Learn to identify and challenge negative thought patterns that contribute to stress. Practice positive self-talk, resilience-building, and problem-solving skills to manage stressors more effectively. 
  4. Professional Collaboration: Collaborate with healthcare providers who can offer integrated care, considering both physical and mental health needs. This approach ensures a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all aspects of well-being. 

 

About Open Door Family Medical Center and Foundation

For over 50 years, Open Door has provided accessible, high-quality health care and wellness services, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Open Door offers family medicine, dental services, behavioral health care, women’s health including obstetrics, vision services, insurance enrollment assistance, and much more. Open Door operates health centers in Ossining, Brewster, Mamaroneck, Mount Kisco, Sleepy Hollow, and Port Chester, and a dental site in Saugerties. Additionally, Open Door runs a mobile dental van and nine School-Based Health Centers in the Ossining, Port Chester, and Webutuck school districts.

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