Can you remember the last time you were stressed? Maybe you were stuck in traffic? Or you had a job interview and weren’t sure if you’d prepared enough for it? Or you were dealing with some conflict at work and weren’t sure how to resolve it?
Stress is a part of life; and whether we like it or not, we all experience it in our every day lives. It’s a natural response of our body when we’re under pressure or threatened.
Stress triggers our flight or fight response, allowing us to create an appropriate reaction to relatively new situations. It keeps us alert, motivated, ready to fight, and even avoid danger. It can even be helpful during emergencies because it gives our bodies extra strength to keep us safe.
So, essentially it’s not a bad thing to experience stress. The only time it becomes a problem is when we’re constantly exposed to it, to the point where it damages our health.
What Happens When We’re Stressed
When we’re stressed, our nervous system releases large amounts of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to keep the body awake and ready for action. As that happens, our heart beats faster, muscles tense up, breathing quickens, and blood pressure rises.
And because of that, like any other object exposed to pressure, if a person is repeatedly experiencing these things, it causes wear and tear on our bodily systems. Here are some ways stress can manifest in our physical well-being:
- Chest pains
- High blood pressure
- Body aches
- Muscle tension
- Digestive problems
Aside from these physical symptoms, stress also affects our mental and emotional health. It can cause:
- Panic attacks
Recognizing Signs Of Stress
The thing is, stress isn’t like any other disease that a test can detect because stress is subjective. It’s easy to notice the physical and mental symptoms I’ve mentioned earlier. However, it’s difficult to determine if it’s a direct effect of stress. So it’s important to be mindful of the subtle signs indicating that our body is under chronic stress. Here are some things you can look out for:
- Having memory problems
- Having racing thoughts
- Feeling overwhelmed or overburdened
- Sleep problems or insomnia
- Changes to your menstrual cycle
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Inability to concentrate
- Constantly picking or itching your skin
Stress is natural, but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get used to it because it can turn into severe and long-term health problems. And before you know it, it may already be too late to save yourself from its negative effects.
So to prevent stress from becoming a bigger health problem, finding effective ways to manage stress is important. Luckily, managing stress isn’t so hard to do when you know the strategies that help. Here are a few actionable tips you can follow.
Tip #1: Prioritize Self-Care
If there’s one thing you should always consider before making a decision, it should be how it will affect you, both in your work life and in your relationships. The truth is, when we’re preoccupied with a lot of things, we tend to put ourselves aside to help others first. For example, when we choose to skip lunch breaks to finish what the CEO has asked us to do or when we choose to work even when we’re sick because we don’t want to burden other colleagues with additional work.
But, the more we put others before ourselves, the more we put our health in danger. So, one of the best ways to destress is to prioritize self-care. Because if we don’t, our body will eventually pick out a rest day for us, and that day will be when we’ve already maximized our physical and mental well-being. So, take the time to listen to your body. Perhaps you need a massage? A book to calm your mind? Or maybe just some quiet time alone? Whatever that is, I’m sure you deserve it.
Tip #2: Practice Time Management
Time is a great source of stress. Having little time to work or sort things out makes us stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. So, if our goal is to deal with stress, we also need to deal with its sources. Time management is crucial because it helps us decide which tasks are urgent and which can wait.
Learning to develop this skill allows us to divide our tasks accordingly in a way that we know works best for us. That way, we can have more time to rest and think, which also reduces the likelihood of experiencing burnout. Some of the ways we manage time are through creating to-do lists, setting calendar reminders, and organizing tasks based on priority levels.
Tip #3: Build A Support System
Let’s face it; some stressful situations are not easy to solve, so we need a support system to back us up during these times. Having a network of people with whom we can vent and ask for support makes it easier to cope with stress and other life difficulties
A 2022 study found that interacting with friends bolsters resilience in stressful situations because of the support and empathetic understanding we share with them. So whether that be your friends, family, or colleagues, it’s important to know you have these people you can always rely on no matter what you go through in life.
Another type of support system is having a mentor or a coach to guide you through stressful times. A skilled coach offers more than just a listening ear; they present an invaluable opportunity to navigate stress with strategic finesse. Coaches can act as a compass, guiding you towards actionable steps to untangle the knots of stress.
Tip #4: Practice Positive Thinking and Mindfulness
When we’re overwhelmed and overburdened by many things, it’s easy to feel sad and have our minds crowded with negative thoughts. The best way to combat these thoughts is by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of being more present or fully aware of the current moment without judgment. Allowing ourselves to stay present encourages us to focus on the current tasks at hand, preventing our minds from wandering into stressful or unrelated thoughts.
Another thing we can do is to reframe our negative thoughts. It’s easy to become irritable, anxious, or mad when faced with stressful situations like being stuck in traffic, late for work, or having to deal with tons of tasks at home. But instead of focusing on these things, we can also try looking at the brighter side of every situation.
Perhaps, we can appreciate the blue sky while we’re in traffic, be thankful we arrived at work safely, or turn on a beautiful song on the radio as we finish all our tasks. In this way, it’s easier to cope with these current stressful situations because we’re dealing with them in a way that doesn’t affect us negatively.
Tip #5: Set Boundaries
One of the main reasons why we get stressed is because sometimes it’s hard for us to say no, even when we’re overwhelmed or overburdened. And because we aren’t used to setting our boundaries, some people feel it’s okay to cross them on multiple occasions, like giving us more workload or sharing our personal matters with others.
It’s valid to feel uncomfortable saying no, especially when you want to avoid upsetting or disappointing others. But if you don’t set your boundaries and tell other people your needs or limits, you’ll always end up feeling more stressed. So practice saying “no” more often and only commit or say yes to things you genuinely want to do.
Tip #6: Build Healthy Coping Mechanisms
As I said, stress will always be a part of our lives, so we need to find healthy ways to cope with it. It can be simple things you can do at home, like practicing meditation, writing in a journal, or reading a book. Or you can also explore group activities like exercising at the gym, walking in the park, doing yoga, or joining a dance class. As much as possible, avoid unhealthy coping strategies like smoking, excessive alcohol drinking, or even doing drugs because it’ll only make you feel worse, not better.
Tip #7: Seek Help When Needed
If you’ve done everything you can and still feel like none of them is helping you through your stress, it may be time to seek professional help. Chronic stress is normal and treatable but can develop into severe complications if we wait too long to ask for help. So, if stress is already making you feel all sorts of emotions and you know it’s too much to bear, don’t be shy to call for help from a mental health professional.
Stress Should Never Overpower Us
Yes, stress is sometimes beneficial, but it can also be detrimental to our health longer we allow ourselves to be in these situations. It can interfere with our lives and even affect our loved ones. And so, the solution here is to practice regular ways of dealing with stress as we encounter it daily.
Stress shouldn’t overpower us. Instead, we should learn to harness its benefits and use that energy to safeguard our well-being while embracing challenges coming our way. So go out there and conquer the world stress-free!