MANAGING STRESS: WHAT CONSUMERS WANT TO KNOW FROM HEALTH EDUCATORS

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approximately 20 minutes to provide a reflective experience. People's lives are full of highs and lows over a course of time. Their journals can reflect these emotions. When journals are written in over a period of time, consumers can identify certain patterns of behaviors, such as which situations evoke the stress response. Health educators can also share with the consumer that journal writing should not be limited solely to words. A picture is worth a thousand words. Drawing serves as a wonderful expression of thoughts and feelings that words often cannot fully describe.

TIME MANAGEMENT
Time management is a coping strategy designed to help minimize stress by setting clear goals and planning the most effective use of time. Many consumers feel overwhelmed because they have too much to do and too little time to do it. Health educators can assist the consumer in coping with stress by teaching them how to analyze their use of time using a time diary. Additional time management ideas which health educators can share with the consumer are: (1) creating personal boundaries and learning to say no, (2) be flexible with your schedule and plan for distractions or emergencies, and (3) setting priorities.

Managing your stress is about finding a technique that works for you and using it to reduce stress in your life. Coping strategies often fail because they are only half of the solution. To deal effectively with stress in a preventive manner, techniques for relaxation must be integrated with coping strategies.

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Relaxation techniques do just that. They decrease stimuli that are associated with your perceptions of stress so that the body can return to homeostasis — its normal physiological state. There are several relaxation techniques that health educators can share with their consumers.

DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING
Diaphragmatic breathing is the easiest method of relaxation because breathing is an action that we normally do without thought or hesitation. Diaphragmatic breathing is controlled deep breathing, which is very symbolic to a sigh. What makes diaphragmatic breathing different from normal breathing is that diaphragmatic breathing involves movement of the lower abdomen. For health educators the beauty of this technique is its simplicity. The consumer can do this anywhere, at any time. Consumers can initiate their own diaphragmatic breathing to reduce stress by doing the following: (1) assume a comfortable position, (2) concentrate, (3) visualize, (4) inhale, (5) exhale, and (6) focus on the sounds of the beach on a nice hot summer day.

MEDITATION
Meditation is a tool that unclutters the mind and brings about mental as well as physical homeostasis. This technique is similar to diaphragmatic breathing in a sense because it requires the consumer (1) inhale and exhale; (2) get in a comfortable position; (3) concentrate, (which allows the person to let go of distracting thoughts, and concentrate on one single thought); (4) find a quite environment; and (5) a passive attitude. A passive attitude requires a person to self-generate their own thoughts without attaching any emotions to those thoughts and letting them move freely in the mind. Health educators can explain to the consumer that when practicing these five steps regularly the consumer can bring about inner peace and harmony in their lives.

YOGA
Yoga is a relaxation technique, which places emphasis on physical postures as well as breathing, mental focus, and sometimes spiritual dimensions. When done correctly there is a complete balance within the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga requires three steps (1) moving into position, (2) maintaining the position, and (3) coming out of the position. For consumers to learn yoga, they must experience it, and learn it from a trained professional. Health educators who teach stress management courses or conduct stress management workshops generally are very experienced in the many yoga styles and very competent in unifying the mind, body, and spirit.

CONCLUSION
In summary, health educators have the responsibility to promote, protect, and preserve the health of people in our society and be a valuable resource. As for the consumer, he or she needs to know three factors about stress. One is that stress is a natural occurrence and can be managed using a variety of techniques. Two, stress management techniques need to be practiced on a regular basis to be effective. Three, stress can be reduced when stress management techniques are incorporated into one's life.

RESPONSIBILITIES AND COMPETENCIES OF HEALTH EDUCATION
Responsibility VI — Acting as a Resource Person in Health Education

Competency C: Interpret and respond to requests for health information

Sub-competency 2: Employ a wide range of approaches in referring requesters to valid sources of health information

Figure 1
Potential Stressor Perception/Appraisal No Stress
Stress
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By Edward V. Wallace

Edward V. Wallace, PhD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance at Ithaca College. Address all correspondence to Edward V. Wallace, PhD, MPH, Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education, Ithaca College, 40 Hill Center, Ithaca, New York 14850; PHONE: (607) 274-3186; FAX (607) 274-1943; EMAIL: ewallace@ithaca.edu.

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