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It is a well-known fact that we all deal with stress in our everyday lives. No matter what we do we will always have to deal with healthy stressors and unhealthy stressors. It is also proven that unhealthy stressors can lead to a large number of health problems, and it is usually how we cope with those stressors that determines how healthy we are physically, psychologically, and physiologically (Straub, 2014). I have examined a case study of a 50-year-old woman, Nancy, and will attempt to determine what unhealthy stressors exist in her life, how stress is measured, what psychological, biological, and social coping resources she has at her disposal, the adverse effects that negative coping mechanisms can have on the body, issues that can result from her tobacco usage, how chronic illnesses can be prevented, what an individual can do to accept the fact that they have a chronic illness and live a healthier lifestyle, and what changes a Nancy can make within her life and why.
Within this case study Nancy is suffering from a number of stressors that are related to her occupation, family, and health. When it comes to occupational stressors she has a heavy workload consisting of more than 20 clients at a time, which she has to conduct intakes and discharge plans. Within her occupation she also has to deal with a number of insurance companies and worried parents, since she works with children that have mental health problems in a residential facility. Nancy also may over work herself because she fills in when other members of the staff call in sick. The most troubling of her occupation related stressors may be the fact that she fears her position at the facility will be eliminated because of budget cuts that could close the facility.
The family related stressors that Nancy is dealing with are the fact that she found out her mother is terminally ill, and she opted to move her mother into her home. Another stressor that compounds with moving her mother in is the fact that her mother seems to always be dissatisfied with Nancy’s house and the way she takes care of her, which is making Nancy feel as if she needs to try harder even though she is already doing her best.
Lastly, there are Nancy’s health related stressors, which can eventually cause a variety of health problems if not alleviated. Nancy has lost over 10 pounds due to being so busy all the time with work and her mother that she either loses her appetite or completely forgets to eat all together. Another health-related stressor is her smoking habit. All together she has been smoking for about 33 years, and usually smokes 2 and a half packs of cigarettes a day. To alleviate her smoking problem, she has talked to a doctor about a smoking cessation plan to help her quit; however, due to all of the other stressors in her life at the moment she has not touched the packet, and her smoking has increased.
Health psychologists use two methods to measure stress: self-report inventories and physiological measures. Physiological measures for stress are much more reliable than self-report inventories because the measures are taken straight from the body’s reaction to stress by use of testing (Straub, 2014). When a problem with stress arises there are psychological, biological, and social resources that can be utilized to decrease stress, before it gets out of hand. These resources include, but are not limited to counseling, such as CBT, CBSM, MBSR; different kinds of relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, relaxation response techniques, deep breathing and visualization exercises; and socially expressive writing and a positive support group are effective resources in reducing stress (Straub, 2014). On the other hand, if an individual does not utilize positive coping mechanisms to manage their stress they become prone to a number of stress related illnesses due to weakening of the immune system and cardiovascular diseases (Straub, 2014).
According to the case study, it is quite obvious that Nancy is utilizing tobacco to cope with her stressful lifestyle, which can possibly lead to a whole new set of problems resulting from its usage. Nancy’s tobacco use can, eventually, lead to death caused by cancer, stroke, heart disease, and any other problems with the cardiovascular system, like increases in respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease (Straub, 2014).
Even though stress is a part of our everyday lives stress-related chronic illnesses can be prevented. In order to avoid illness an individual should make sure to get plenty of rest, maintain a proper diet, have a positive support group, follow treatment plans and take medication as directed if a doctor has been consulted (Straub, 2014). However, when a chronic illness does develop an individual tends to experience a lot of stress due to the physical and emotional effects it can have on the body, and so forth. In the event that this is the case, there is a number of things that an individual can to accept the fact that they have an illness and develop a healthier lifestyle (Straub, 2014). To accomplish these two things an individual can seek counseling, which will educate them more about their illness, allow them to discuss their concerns and feelings about their illness, and discuss treatment options and coping strategies; they can develop a positive support group and suggest family counseling so they have more support, they should avoid antisocial behaviors, and try their best to continue life as they had before diagnosed with their illness (Straub, 2014).
In Nancy’s case, I would suggest that she be proactive about dealing with her stressful lifestyle. First off, I would suggest that she hire someone to help her with her mother and not take anything her mother says personally. This would help to minimize her family stress so she would have some time to relax and remember to eat. Second, I would suggest that she look into her information about smoking cessation. This would help her to quit smoking tobacco, which would reduce any long-term illnesses that may develop and keep possible present ones from worsening. Lastly, I would suggest that she lighten her work load a little bit, by not working so much so she can have some time to herself and not be rushing constantly.
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