Give yourself the gift of less stress this Valentine’s Day.
Many people experienced unprecedented stress during the past year, notes University of Missouri Extension human development specialist Jeremiah Terrell.
Stress is part of everyday life, Terrell says. It may be short-term or chronic, and can lead to poor health, reduced quality of life and even suicide.
Terrell is part of an MU Extension project funded by a three-year USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to provide stress assistance and suicide prevention services for farmers, ranchers, youths and farm families, and others in agricultural occupations.
MU Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch says Valentine’s Day is a stressful holiday for many. “Remember that caring about others is not just a Valentine's Day thing. Show you care 365 days a year,” she says. “Having that as your main focus may turn out to be a lot more rewarding than placing all your hopes and dreams on what happens on just that one day during the year.”
Many stressors are real; others are imagined or exaggerated, Terrell says. Knowing which is which can reduce stress.
“Thoughts are not equal to facts,” he says. “Sometimes there is a story we tell ourselves and it may not be true.” He says it is important to look at feelings from a distance and decide if stress is coming from an internal or external source.
Sometimes we have little control over external stressors—just how we react to them, Terrell says. We have more control over internal stressors, but they can be harder to recognize. Stressors, whether brief or chronic, can manifest themselves in physical responses that are harmful to long-term health and quality of life.
He points to the work of author, academic and speaker Brene Brown. In her TED talks and 2012 book, “Daring Greatly,” she teaches people to tell others how they are interpreting a situation. Transparent conversations that begin with “This is how I think you feel about…” can help build trust and reduce misunderstandings.
When you jump to conclusions based upon the past, stress occurs. Stress follows disappointment, anger and other feelings when you react instead of respond by analyzing the situation, says Terrell.
When this happens, slow down, he says. Avoid external influences such as media and focus on things that bring you joy and a sense of gratitude.
Missourians experiencing stress can access the toll-free Iowa Concern Hotline through North Central Region Farm and Ranch Alliance Network at 800-447-1985 or extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern.
Find more information from MU Extension’s Taking Care of You program at extension.missouri.edu/programs/taking-care-of-you.