Difficulty coping with life can occur because of a major tragedy (such as a fire or tornado) or because of any variety of life circumstances that have got you weighted down.  The loss of job, behavioral issues with your children, separation/divorce, or financial difficulties can be just as overpowering as living through war or a hurricane. 

But how can you tell if your stress is normal or if you are on overload?  Here's a checklist to help:

Do minor problems and disappointments upset you excessively?

Do the small pleasures of life fail to satisfy you?

Are you unable to stop worrying?

Do you feel inadequate or suffer from self-doubt?

Are you constantly tired?

Do you experience flashes of anger over minor problems?

Have you noticed a change in sleeping or eating patterns?

Do you suffer from chronic pain, headaches, or backaches?

If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, consider the following:  If you don’t deal with the stress, it can be harmful to your mental and physical health. Here are some tips for coping in these difficult times:

Talk about it. By talking with others about the event, you can relieve stress and realize that others share your feelings.

Be realistic.  If you feel overwhelmed by some activities, learn to say NO!

Shed the "superman/woman" urge.  No one is perfect, so don't expect perfection from yourself or others.

Spend time with friends and family. They can help you through this tough time. If your family lives outside the area, stay in touch by phone. If you have any children, encourage them to share their concerns and feelings with you.

Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest and exercise, and eat properly. If you smoke or drink coffee, try to limit your intake, since nicotine and caffeine can also add to your stress.

Find time for activities you enjoy. Read a book, go for a walk, catch a movie or do something else you find enjoyable. These healthy activities can help you get your mind off the disaster and keep the stress in check.

Take one thing at a time. For people under stress, an ordinary workload can sometimes seem unbearable. Pick one urgent task and work on it. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. “Checking off” tasks will give you a sense of accomplishment and make things feel less overwhelming.

Find a hobby.  A hobby will give you a break from your worries.

Do something positive. Give blood, call a friend who is ill, send a card to a neighbor.  Helping other people can give you a sense of purpose.

Give in occasionally.  Be flexible.

Go easy with criticism.  You may be expecting too much.

Avoid drugs and excessive drinking. Drugs and alcohol may temporarily seem to remove stress, but in the long run they generally create additional problems that compound the stress you were already feeling.

Ask for help when you need it. If your feelings do not go away or are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function in daily life, talk with a trusted relative, friend, doctor or make an appointment with one of our trained mental health professionals to discuss how well you are coping with the recent events. You could also join a support group. Don’t try to cope alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

The above list of strategies was adapted from the National Mental Health Association website and used by permission.