Stress management. People who don’t manage stress well can have headaches, stomach pain, sleeping problems, illness, and depression. You can help manage stress by journaling, meditating, exercising, talking to others, or engaging in a hobby.
We all deal with stress at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s your job, a family illness, or money troubles. But not all stress is bad. It can make you more aware of things around you and keep you more focused. In some cases stress can give you strength and help you get more done.
What Causes Stress?
Stress is different for everyone. What stresses you out may not even bother your best friend and vice versa.
Still, your bodies react the same to stressors. That’s because the stress response is your body’s way of dealing with tough or demanding situations. It causes hormonal, respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous system changes. For example, stress can make your heart beat faster, make you breathe rapidly, sweat, and tense up. It can also give you a burst of energy.
This is known as the body’s “fight-or-flight response.” It’s this chemical reaction that prepares your body for a physical reaction because it thinks it’s under attack. This type of stress helped our human ancestors survive in nature.
Sometimes you can feel stressed for a short period of time. Usually it’s nothing to worry about. Like when you need to hand in a project, or you have to talk in front of a group of people. Maybe you feel “butterflies” in your stomach and the palms of your hands get sweaty.
These types of positive stressors are short-lived, and your body’s way of helping you get through what could be a tough situation.
Sometimes, however, negative feelings can be very stressful. Maybe you’re worried, angry, scared, or frustrated. This kind of stress isn’t good for you, and over the long-term can cause serious problems.
While stress affects everyone differently, there are many causes of stress that can have a negative impact, including:
- Being bullied
- Working too hard
- Losing a job
- Marriage or relationship problems
- Recent break up or divorce
- Death in the family
- Difficulty in school
- Family problems
- Busy schedule
- Recent move
If you let your stress spiral on for too long, it can have damaging effects on your physical, mental, and emotional health, especially if it becomes chronic. You need to be aware of the warning signs of chronic stress so you can take care of it.
Physical symptoms of chronic stress include:
- Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much
- Muscle pain or tension
- Digestive issues
- Change in sex drive
- High blood pressure
Emotional symptoms of chronic stress include:
- Feeling you can’t get things done
- Lack of motivation
- Sadness or depression
Sometimes you may feel like you have too much stress to handle. If you think you just can’t cope any longer, you may want to seek help from a specialist. Talk to your primary care doctor to see if they can help you determine whether what you’re experiencing is stress or an anxiety disorder.
You may be referred to a mental health expert that will provide you with additional resources and tools.
Signs of stress overload include:
- Panic attacks
- Worrying all the time
- Feeling you’re under constant pressure
- Drinking or doing drugs to deal with your stress
- Withdrawal from family and friends
Stress Management Tips
People can learn to manage stress and lead happier, healthier lives. Here are some tips to help you keep stress at bay.
- Keep a positive attitude.
- Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
- Be assertive instead of aggressive. Assert your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.
- Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi for stress management.
- Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Learn to manage your time more effectively.
- Set limits appropriately and learn to say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life.
- Make time for hobbies, interests, and relaxation.
- Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
- Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to reduce stress.
- Seek out social support. Spend enough time with those you enjoy.
- Seek treatment with a psychologist or other mental health professional trained in stress management or biofeedback techniques to learn healthy ways of dealing with the stress in your life.