"Encourage people to express their feelings, and don't tell a depressed or anxious family member to snap out of it. Try to be supportive and flexible," said Rachel Schwarzendruber.
In times of stress, it's important to eat balanced meals and get enough sleep and exercise, she said. But you can also cope with stress overload by taking a break from the stressful situation.
1. Take a walk.
2. Watch a movie.
3. Spend time on yourself--take a long bath or shower.
4. Listen to music.
5. Work in the yard or garden.
6. Work on your favorite hobby or start a new one.
7. Jog, dance, or participate in some other physical activity.
Another approach is to reduce excess muscle tension by using relaxation exercises. Here are some simple techniques that may take practice so try to do them at least twice a day.
Belly breathing: Sit or lie comfortably in a relaxed position. As you slowly breathe in, let your belly expand. Think of it as a balloon filling with air. As you exhale, let the air out of your "balloon" slowly. Place your hands on your stomach. You should feel it rise and fall as you breathe.
Slower respiration rate: Slow your breathing rate by seeing how few times you can breathe each 60 seconds. When you begin to get tense, take a few minutes and simply slow your breathing to about three to six breaths a minute.
Shoulder exercise: Try to touch your ears with your shoulders. Hold it for a count of four. Then let your shoulders drop. Now rotate each shoulder separately toward the rear. Do each shoulder five to ten times. Then do both shoulders together.
Massage: Massage the back of your neck, concentrating on the part that feels tense. Cup your thumbs at the front of your neck and massage on both sides of your spinal column, letting your head fall limply back against your rotating fingers. Use your fingers to massage around your hairline and under your jaw and your cheekbones.
Mental vacation: Close your eyes and think of a place where you would like to be. Go there in your mind. You may go alone or you may imagine being with someone. Quietly watch a sunset or take in a mountain, forest, or ocean scene. Or you may be active in hunting shells or rocks, hiking, playing a sport or game, climbing a mountain, or cycling. Enjoy the experience.
If you are experiencing an extreme level of stress, seek the support of your family doctor, a mental health professional, a member of the clergy, or a support group.
Schwarzendruber said these symptoms mean you or a family member may need outside help.
• Feeling depressed (crying for no reason, lack of personal care, feeling as if you don't want to do anything, fatigue, unreasonable fears, inability to concentrate, change in appetite)
• Changed sleeping patterns (sleeping too much, difficulty falling asleep, waking a lot during the night and too early in the morning)
• Abusing family members
• Thinking about suicide
• Disciplining too harshly
• Hallucinating (hearing voices or seeing things that aren't there)
• Considering separation from your spouse
• Not being able to think of anything good to say
• Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol (drinking in the morning, hiding liquor so no one knows you're drinking, drinking more than two or three beers every night)
• Feeling guilty, as though you aren't being a good parent to your kids
• Experiencing isolation (you don't know anyone to talk to and you have a strong need to talk to someone)
• Making excuses for your situation or lying about your situation
• Having panic attacks (you may have a high pulse rate or difficulty breathing)
• Feeling overwhelmed by life
"Before your problems become too big to handle, find a trained, skilled counselor to help you handle your fears, adjust to your present situation, and plan for the future. Health insurance may help pay for counseling, while some counselors charge on a sliding scale, depending on your ability to pay. A clergyperson may provide counseling at no cost," she said.
For other good advice on getting through tough financial times, including how to deal with foreclosure, which bill to pay first, how to talk to your creditors, how to save food dollars, how to talk to your children about your financial situation, and more, visit U of I Extension's "Getting Through Tough Financial Times" website at http://www.ToughTimes.illinois.edu .