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Weathering tough times made easier by reducing personal stress

Flooding in some regions of North Dakota and Minnesota is raising concerns about personal or family stress.

"Personal stress often results when we experience factors beyond our control, such as flooding and other difficulties, and we feel that we can do little or nothing to change the situation," says Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension Service family science specialist. "Factors that seem beyond one's control may create a sense of challenges beyond resolution. This can result in feelings ranging from helplessness and anger to depression. However, weathering tough times can be made easier by focusing on things you definitely can control, such as reducing your personal stress."

Brotherson highlights six suggestions for families dealing with stress brought on by flooding or other circumstances.

First, identify and access resources that may be helpful. Consider the resources you need most and then look at what's available in your community or region.

"You need to be willing to do some homework and then approach others who may have knowledge or resources that can benefit you," Brotherson suggests. "You don't need to struggle alone with feelings of frustration when others may have information or resources that can help you."

Second, pursue open, continuous and healthy communication with other family members and friends.

"Don't let anger or withdrawal be your primary mode of communication because you're stressed out," Brotherson says. "That elevates stress even more. Be willing to share your fears and concerns, and talk with others who understand or who you can trust."

Third, build social ties with others who can network with you and share ideas.

"Getting together with others who are also stressed may not help," Brotherson says. "You need a focus. Proactive, positive groups can let you brainstorm ideas and learn from others about how to face a problem. Avoid gossip or judgmental attitudes about others in the community. Instead, focus on what you can do to make a difference in your situation."

Fourth, focus on family relationships.

"Although flood conditions may be the source of the stress or concern, that is not the most important issue," Brotherson notes. "Family relationships are your primary sources of support and they need your attention. Reassure family members of your love and commitment. As much as possible, follow consistent family routines that give security, such as family meals."

Fifth, use stress-reduction ideas such as getting regular exercise, sleeping sufficient hours and keeping a healthy and balanced diet.

"Healthy living is more important when you are facing higher stress levels," Brotherson says. "Exercise, sleep and diet are critical. Think about what helps you relax. Laughter is important, too. Watching a funny movie together or telling a few good jokes can help you to relax and reduce stress."

Sixth, take steps to get spiritual renewal and explore sources of spiritual strength. Families may want to explore sources of spiritual support or find strength in the faith community that is meaningful to them.

"Taking conscious steps to manage and reduce personal stress can make the difference for those who want to keep their perspective and their health as they deal with flooding conditions or other concerns," Brotherson says.

For more details about dealing with stress during a flood, visit NDSU's flood information Web site at www.ag.ndsu.edu/disaster/flood.html.


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