Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action. It is the body’s response to pressure. Many different situations or life events can cause stress and usually it is often triggered when we experience something new, unexpected or that threatens our sense of self, or when we feel we have little control over a situation. This is why when stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol etc.
On the positive side, stress can be a motivator and it can even be essential to survival. The body’s fight-or-flight mechanism tells a person when and how to respond to danger. However, when the body becomes triggered too easily, or there are too many stressors at one time, it can undermine a person’s mental and physical health and become harmful.
Stress can cause mental health problems and make existing problems worse. For example, if you often struggle to manage feelings of stress, you might develop a mental health problem like anxiety or depression. Stress can become a problem when it starts to affect how you cope with day-to-day stuff. Managing stress is a matter of avoiding stress triggers and practicing techniques to reduce stress.
While certain episodes in life, like grieving following the death of a loved one, is known to cause immense psychological stress, even everyday incidents that we take for granted can impact on mental health and welfare. The way we allow stress to affect us depends to a large degree on individual coping skills and stress management. Removing stress or avoiding it is not always possible and to minimize the adverse health effects of stress, every person should understand proper stress management.
How we deal with stress is just as important as the root cause. Some people seem to have a natural propensity to manage stress without reacting overtly or letting it affect their life. These people may have good coping skills and effective ways of managing stress, although they may also be suppressing their emotions at times. Other people may react extremely to even minor stresses in life with excessive emotional outbursts and impairment of daily functioning.
Learning to control stress can take a while, but everyone can do it. For this, it is necessary to know yourself well and to have the right keys, then extreme situations (rush at work, exam periods, family problems, etc.) will have less impact on you.
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Stomach aches
- Body pain
- Acne or breakouts
- Digestive issues
Mental symptoms of stress include:
- Suicidal ideation
- Food and eating issues
- Addictions and/or compulsions
- Substance abuse
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
What are the keys to de-stressing?
To manage tension, one must understand how particular situations create emotions and induce maladaptive behaviors that are costly to those who live them. We must start by identifying the most stressful situations, and to understand the emotion produced in these moments. Then check if that is a real fear or a more theoretical concern. Finally, we must find the appropriate action plan. With this method, we manage almost all situations of everyday tension.
How do I manage stress?
Plan and organize your time, reflect on your values and strengths, and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. Additionally, reframe negative thoughts about a situation to neutral or positive thoughts so that you can see the full picture.
Simple ways to manage and reduce stress that any person can undertake includes:
- Exercising regularly
- Deep breathing
- Meditation or yoga . See Yoga and it’s health benefits
- Social activities like sport
- Spending time with a pet
- Taking up a hobby
- Going on vacation
Learn patterns of behavior to respond and deal with stress are known as coping skills which can be useful for a lifetime. It can be learned one-on-one with a mental health professional or with many other people like in group support sessions.
Stress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress.
Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.
1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.
Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodge ball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.
Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?
By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.
2. Consider what you can control and work on that.
While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.
The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.
Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.
Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.
3. Do what you love.
It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.
4. Manage your time well.
One of the biggest stressors for many people is lack of time. Their to-do list expands, while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? In reality, you’ve got more time than you think.
We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.
5. Create a toolbox of techniques.
One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.
6. Pick off the negotiables from your plate.
Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can pick off your plate. Are you volunteering for too many causes, and so stealing time from the ones where you could make the most impact? Does your whole department really need to meet once per week or have that daily conference call?”
Try asking yourself these suggested questions: “Do [my activities] mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning? Am I doing the right amount of things?”
Reducing your stack of negotiable tasks can greatly reduce your stress.
7. Are you leaving yourself extra vulnerable to stress?
Whether you perceive something as a stressor depends in part on your current state of mind and body. So if you’re not getting sufficient sleep or physical activity during the week, you may be leaving yourself extra susceptible to stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, sedentary and filled to the brim with coffee, even the smallest stressors can have a huge impact.
8. Preserve good boundaries.
If you’re a people-pleaser like me, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, have become a terrible person or are throwing all civility out the window. But of course that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.
One thing I’ve noticed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed. But not to worry: Building boundaries is a skill you can learn.
9. Realize there’s a difference between worrying and caring.
Sometimes, our mindset can boost stress. We continue worrying, somehow thinking that this is a productive or at least inevitable response to stress. But we mistake worry for action.
“Worrying is an attempt to exert control over the future by thinking about it,” whereas caring is taking action. “When we are caring for someone or something, we do the things that support or advance the best interests of the person or thing that we care about.”