Everyone experiences stress to some degree. It is a normal human reaction, and the human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. How you respond to stress, however, dramatically impacts your overall well-being.
Signs of Stress
Stress can affect all parts of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. When a person has long-term stress, continued activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on the body. As a result, emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms develop.
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming moody
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Having a hard time relaxing and quieting your mind
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
- Constant worrying
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetfulness and disorganization
- Inability to focus
- Poor judgment
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioral symptoms of stress include:
- Changes in appetite which can result in weight gain or weight loss
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- More use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Having more nervous behaviors, such as fidgeting, and pacing
Be mindful and self-aware of when you are feeling stressed and know when it is time to seek stress relief.
Types of Stress
Not all stress is necessarily a bad thing. Things such as a significant event or an important deadline to meet can be considered stressful but in a “good” way. This is why there are three different types of stress: acute, episodic, and chronic stress.
Acute Stress – Despite the name, there is nothing cute about it. It is the most common stress and usually brief. It can happen when you are preparing for a job interview, going to the doctor, or anticipating major life events like a wedding or childbirth.
Episodic Stress – People who frequently suffer episodic stress often live a life of chaos and crisis. They are always in a rush or feel pressured. They take on many responsibilities, and usually cannot stay organized.
Chronic Stress – Chronic stress is described as ongoing and constant stress with little to no relief and is the most harmful type of stress. If left untreated over a long period, it can significantly and irreversibly damage your physical and mental health.
Impact of Stress
Typically, after a stressful event occurs, your body should relax. Too much constant stress can have adverse effects on your long-term health. Ongoing chronic stress can cause or worsen the following heatlh problems:
- Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and strokes
- Obesity and other eating disorders
- Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
How to Relieve Stress
Although stress is inevitable, it can be manageable. Try these 5 tips to help you relieve stress in your life.
Exercise helps alleviate stress and calm the mind by stimulating the brain’s happiness chemical called endorphins. Regular exercise has also been associated with greater resilience to acute stress and may lower negative health effects associated with stress, such as high cortisol.
Stress Reliever: Just 20 minutes of low to moderate intensity exercise daily can help manage and prevent stress symptoms.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but how we spend that time can significantly affect our stress levels. Learning what you absolutely must do yourself and what you can delegate is an effective stress reliever. When I realized my kids were finally old enough to do their fair share around the house and I didn’t have to do everything, I could relieve some daily stress from my life.
Stress Reliever: For the next three days, write down all your tasks at work, home, and beyond, and note which tasks you can delegate to someone else. Realize you don’t have to do everything, and that teamwork makes the dream work!
To take delegation even further, learning how to outsource can be a great stress reliever. I love a clean house, but I don’t love spending half the day cleaning my house. So, I outsourced it, and now I have my sanity and a sanitized home. According to Calmpreneur, “When your to-do list is growing rapidly, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done. Lack (or perceived lack) of time is a huge cause of stress and anxiety.”
Stress Reliever: Write down all the things on your to-do list you don’t like doing and can have someone else do, and then hire them to do it.
Redirecting your attention is an excellent way to relieve stress. With today’s stressful lifestyles, it’s important to have time that you take to do something just for the fun of it as part of your self-care. There are many benefits of having good old fun and it’s one of the best ways to relieve stress.
Stress Reliever: While there are many great hobbies to choose from, this is a list of hobbies that are particularly useful in relieving stress:
- Gardening – Gardening can be a great stress reliever because it gets you into the sunshine and fresh air while creating more beautiful surroundings around your home.
- Photography – Taking pictures allows you to practice seeing the world through a photographer’s eye and may help you begin to see things differently, helping to relieve stress.
- Scrapbooking – Scrapbooking offers a break from what stresses you to create something beautiful that others can enjoy.
- Puzzles – Engaging your mind in a puzzle can take your focus off what’s stressing you and develop your brain power simultaneously.
- Painting – Get in touch with your artistic side to process emotions, distract yourself, and achieve other stress management benefits.
- Journaling – Writing is a hobby that can be cathartic and relaxing and provides something great to share with others.
Focused, deep breathing promotes self-awareness and can reduce the effects of stress and worry.
BREATHING TECHNIQUE FOR STRESS
Breathing and meditation techniques can manage stress when practiced regularly. Deep intentional breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and allows your body to relax and enter a state of calm. Breathing goes hand-in-hand with meditation. About 10 – 30 minutes of meditation each day may improve stress.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Coping technique
The 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique for stress allows people to refocus their minds on the present moment and stop fixating on stressful thoughts by using their five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste. Start by taking a few slow, deep breaths and following these five steps to use this technique.
Look for and notice FIVE things you see around you. Examples: A person, place, or thing, like a pen on your desk.
Look for and notice FOUR things you can touch around you. Examples: The ground under your feet, your hair or your clothes.
Look for and notice THREE things you can hear. Examples: Music, people talking nearby, or birds chirping.
Look for and notice TWO things you can smell. Examples: Your clothes, food, a pencil on your desk, or soap in your bathroom.
Look for and notice ONE thing you can taste. Examples: Coffee, gum, or a sandwich from lunch.
In conclusion, it takes time to learn how to manage your stress because everyone is different. What works for one person, might not work for someone else, and that is okay. Be patient while you find out what works for you.
What kind of coping mechanisms do you use? Let us know in the comments below!