Stress is just part of being human. It is your body’s reaction to emotional, physical, or intellectual challenges of everyday life. While the complete elimination of stress is unrealistic, there are many stress management techniques you can try to regain control.
A small amount of stress can be good, keeping you alert and motivating you to get things done. However, when its level is high, it can wreak havoc on your emotional equilibrium and physical health, suppressing your ability to function effectively, think clearly, and enjoy life.
While your family and work responsibilities will always be demanding, the bills won’t stop coming, and some unexpected things may happen, so there will be some kind of stress in your life. The good news is that there are many tools to handle stress too.
What Is Stress and How Does It Affect Your Body
Stress is an emotional or physical feeling of tension that may cause frustration, anger, or other emotions. It is usually initiated by a diversity of factors that include but are not limited to your thoughts or events. Common stressors include:
- Financial problems
- Job pressures
- Busy schedules
- Relationship problems
- Personality (introverts are more susceptible to stress than extroverts)
- Environmental factors
- Chronic medical issues
Even positive events, such as buying a house or getting married, can be stressful. Your body is designed to undergo stress and create the corresponding reaction to it. It enhances your body’s capacity for response and adjustability to different situations. During moments of stress, the central nervous system (CNS) initiates the release of stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, leading to various changes in your body systems. The burst of hormones raises your blood pressure, increases your heartbeat, and causes muscle tension. On the other hand, chronic stress causes continued activation of the body’s stress response, which leads to wear and tear on the body. Over time, chronic stress can result in physical and psychological health problems. That is why a therapist’s aid in stress management is highly recommended if this feeling seems to be long-term.
Symptoms of Stress
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Dizziness, headaches, and shaking
- Pains and aches in the chest and other parts of the body
- Fatigue and insomnia
- Jaw clenching or muscle tension
- Low sex drive
- Digestive problems
- Weak immune system
Emotional and mental symptoms of stress include:
- Anxiety or irritability
- Panic attacks
Without proper stress management tools, individuals with chronic stress turn to unhealthy behaviors such as:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Compulsive shopping, sex, or internet browsing
- Developing an eating disorder
Overview of Stress Management
If you’re putting up with high-stress levels, you’re compromising your overall health and well-being. As mentioned, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to increased physical and mental health problems. While no one can avoid all stress, effective stress management techniques can increase your potential to recover so that you can be healthier, happier, and more productive. The goal is to develop resilience and coping skills, meet challenges head-on, and achieve a balanced life.
Stress management doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. You need to identify what you can and can’t control and determine what strategies work for you. Talk to your doctor if you feel down for more than several weeks or if your feelings start interfering with your life. Stress management therapy, medication, and other strategies can help.
Effective Ways to Manage Stress
Identify Stress Triggers
Effective stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. While it’s easy to identify stressors such as moving houses, changing jobs, or going through a custody battle, identifying other stress triggers can be more complicated. You can fail to recognize how your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors contribute to stress. If you’re constantly worried about deadlines at work, you may have a procrastination problem that is causing stress. Look closely at your attitude, habits, and excuses to identify the sources of stress and the role you play in creating or maintaining it.
Consider Stress Management Therapy
Anxiety and stress management counseling has proven benefits in the reduction of stress symptoms and improvement in attitude and overall health. Stress reduction therapy uses strategies and techniques that reduce stress levels or help cope with events or situations that could lead to high tension. Therapists can help you identify problem areas and guide you toward approaches that will help control your most stressful moments or situations. It’s important to balance stress management and therapy for optimal results. The most common counseling techniques for stress include mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), cognitive-behavioral therapy, and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Healthy lifestyle choices can increase your body’s resistance to stress. The basic recommendations are as follows:
- Eat a balanced diet. Eating healthy helps improve your immune system and manage your blood pressure. Avoid foods with high sugar, fat, and caffeine content, which are known to disrupt relaxation. Look for lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and fatty acids found in nuts, eggs, meat, and fish. Antioxidants can help protect your cells from damage.
- Get enough sleep. Enough sleep offers significant rest and energizes your mind to enhance positive thinking. You should always minimize the amount of light and noise before you sleep. Also, ensure other aspects such as temperature, space, and your mattress offer maximum comfort.
- Avoid drug use. Using drugs for self-medication offers a temporary solution to stress but will leave you feeling more stressed once the drug’s effect subsides.
Have you noticed stress symptoms? Consult with a licensed doctor to know your diagnosis.
Physical exercise significantly relieves stress by releasing good mood hormones like endocannabinoids and endorphins, which make you feel good and maintain a positive attitude. Endocannabinoids can give you the euphoric feeling that some people get after long runs. Exercise can also serve as a valuable distraction from your daily worries. Get a dose of stress relief with aerobics, swimming, running, cycling, dancing, kayaking, or hiking. If you don’t have enough time for an exercise program, engage in activities such as cleaning your house, hand washing your car, using the stairs, or biking to the store.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation might be low on your priority list because of the nonstop complications of modern life and its demands and expectations. Taking the time to relax and recharge daily can help manage stress and repair its effects on your mind and body. Common relaxation techniques include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation yoga, focusing on the present, and tai chi. Choose a technique that works for you and stick to it.
Interaction with other people starves off depression and anxiety as the body releases hormones that prevent your fight-or-flight response. People who create significant relations with others are less prone to stress than those with limited socialization skills. You can join groups that help you socialize and participate in other activities with friends.
Social support may best help reduce stress by:
- Alleviating the effects of distress
- Encouraging adherence to a treatment plan
- Enhancing self-confidence and the ability to cope with stressful situations
- Promoting healthy lifestyle choices
Hone Your Time Management Skills
Poor time management will make you feel anxious and stressed. It’s hard to stay calm and focused when you’re running behind and stretched too thin. Plus, it will be easy to go back to important things like getting enough sleep, socializing, or having some quality “me” time. To manage your time better:
- Set realistic goals that you can effectively accomplish with your ability and available time.
- Make a to-do list and tackle the tasks in order of importance
- Break large projects into small, manageable steps
- Say “No” to demands that will place too much stress on you
- Delegate responsibility whenever possible to your group members or family members
- Have a healthy sense of self-esteem
While stress is unavoidable, it shouldn’t be ignored. If left untreated, chronic stress can lead to serious mental and physical health problems. The best thing is that you can reduce and manage stress using some useful strategies and patience. Find stress management techniques that fit your personality and lifestyle, and if you face any difficulty, professionals at Mango Clinic are there to help.