We all have stresses in our daily lives, most of the time it is short-lived, but when it is prolonged our health really begins to suffer.
The increasing demands of modern life put enormous pressure on the mind and body.
Some stresses are not a bad thing, like just before a sporting event, or an interview, it provides a spur to achieve. It is also a normal response to danger… fight or flight.
I personally have gone through years of having to deal with stresses, some times it is easier and some times I let it get the best of me.
I have learned over the years some tips on how to handle my stress and I would like to pass this on to you.
When stress is too much to handle it can wreak havoc on your mind and body.
Here are some common symptoms associated with Stress:
- Nausea, headache, trembling, racing heart, chest pains, muscle stiffness / aches, chronic pain, changes in libido, sweating, difficulty sleeping, digestive problems, eating too much or too little and fatigue. Increased blood pressure, raised blood-sugar and cholesterol levels, increased breathing
- Hard to concentrate or remember things. Confusion, indecisiveness and decrease in attention span
Frustration, anger, tension, anxiety, depression, worry, becoming easily irritable, lack of patience, overwhelmed and fearful
- Nervous habits like nail biting, hand clenching. Increased eating, smoking and/or drinking. Being physically or verbally abusive to either yourself or to others. Avoiding others and an inability to enjoy company
IF STRESS IS INTERFERING WITH YOUR DAILY LIFE, it is time to take a look at why stress happens and how to manage it
Stress is a habit that you can break, if you are prepared to look carefully at your life and take control
The following tips will help to get you on the right path to better emotional and physical health:
Exercise is a great stress reliever. Research has shown us over and over again that people who are physically active on a regular basis have lower stress levels then those who do not exercise.
Even a small amount of exercise can relieve stress.
A walk in the park, in amongst nature has many physical and mental benefits
a. Physical activity releases and increases the secretion on many “feel-good” hormones.
b. It is also a good way to reset your brain so you can think more clearly and become more focused.
2. WHAT IS CAUSING YOUR STRESS?
Is it External?:
- Physical environment –noise, bright or flashing lights, temperature, confined or open space, pollution
- Social interactions – Rude or angry people. Or those who hold a position of power like a boss or Professor.
- Work related – fellow employees, set rules and regulations, hierarchy within the company or your department
- Life event – new job, marital status change, death of a family member or friend, new child, new home
Is it Internal?:
- Lifestyle – poor sleep habits, poor diet, smoking, excessive caffeine, excessive alcohol
- Negative self image – pessimistic outlook on life, self negative talk, unrealistic expectations
- Unable to adapt – Unwilling to change or compromise, taking criticism personally
Keep a journal of which negative thoughts occupy your mind throughout your day.
Do you notice any patterns? Can you make a plan to deal with the stresses you can control? And for those stresses that are out of your control, try to let them go.
Remember you may not be able to control what is happening but you can control how you react to it, and THAT is a big way to help control your stress.
Avoiding the Negative Stress:
- Limit your interaction with people or places that create the negative stress
- Set healthy boundaries by learning to say “No”. You can even practice certain phrases so you are ready when the time comes to use them. E.g. “Sorry to cut this short, but I do have a lot to get done before leaving for the day”.
- If the stress is significant and relentless you may need to leave the job or relationship.
3. POSITIVE THINKING IS SOMETHING TO STRIVE FOR
“ Is the glass half empty? Or half full?” how do you look at things?
Do you automatically find the negative in a situation or do you look for the positive?
Just even changing your wording will make a huge difference. Instead of “I am so busy” try “I am so productive” or instead of “I have to…..” change it to “I get to……”
Attempt to view changes and challenges as opportunities for growth.
- It is amazing the difference this can make in how you feel and can take a negative situation or person and turn it all around to the positive
- We may not be able to control the stress or stress trigger but our reaction to the stress is something we are in control of.
4. BUILD POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS
Build and nurture relationships in your life that are positive, make you feel good and are aligned with your goals and the person you wish to be.
Negative, hostile people need to be avoided and weeded out of your life.
If that person happens to be a spouse or family member, seek out counselling or talk to a supportive friend/family member for help
5. GET ADEQUATE SLEEP.
This can’t be said enough. We all know how it feels to be sleep deprived, we find it hard to concentrate and are easily agitated. Getting enough rest allows you to deal more effectively with stress.
- Sleep deprivation affects our overall health and how well we can deal with daily stresses.
- Sleep is a restorative activity
6. ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS REALISTIC?
We live in a fast-paced society that seems to value “busy-ness” or so we think it does. This is SO draining and really in the end does not make us a better person.
This is one area I always need to be aware of, I seem to think that I can do way more in a day then is physically possible… unless I just don’t sleep at all… and we already know how important sleep is.
Prioritize your daily list so that at the end of the day you can focus on what you accomplished and be happy with that. Rather then getting down on yourself on what you didn’t get done.
7. HAVE SOME “ME” TIME.
You have heard the phrase “burning the candle at both ends”, being too busy working or doing things for everyone else but forgetting about one of the most important people…. YOU!
Schedule time to do something that you enjoy, write it on your daytimer or calendar, whether it is taking a relaxing bath, spending time with friends, or learning a new hobby.
This personal appointment with yourself is just as important if not more then all your other appointments for that day.
8. EXPLORE RELAXING ACTIVITIES.
Such as meditation, deep-breathing exercises, yoga, and tai-chi.
- Meditation is a great stress management tool that will calm both the mind and body
- Even a short amount of meditation (5 minutes) will help. You can get guided meditations through apps
- Yoga poses can help decrease stress. E.g. downward facing dog, butterfly, supine pigeon, spinal twist…
- Deep Breathing (Diaphragmatic breathing) is a great way to calm your mind and reduce stress. I will do this even when I am right in a stressful situation or conversation and the immediate results are extremely helpful.
9. SEEK OUT THE HELP OF A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL
If you find managing stress on your own to be too difficult, there is help out there. Think of the time and money spent as a wise investment in your emotional and physical health and wellbeing.
10. LIVE A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE.
This is extremely important. What you eat and daily physical activity have a direct impact on how you feel. If you feel good you will be able to handle stress much more effectively.
These 10 ways to decrease stress are perhaps the most important aspects of living a “less-stressed” life.
Trevanian Tsai, N. ACE Medical Exercise Specialist Manual, 2015.Ch. 3 working with Clients with Health Challenges.
Kandhasamy S. and Songmun K. PMC US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. 2016 Influence of Fragrances on Human Psychophysiological Activity: With Special Reference to Human Electroencephalographic Response.
Link, R. MS,RD. January 7, 2018 Health Line article 11 Signs and Symptoms of Too Much Stress.
PMC, Us. National Library of Medicine National institutes of Health, 2000 Dec 1: Stress and Chronic Headache.
American Psychological Association (2017), Stress in America: Coping with Change. Stress in America TM Survey