Ten ways to tackle stress
Stress is something everyone deals with on quite a regular basis. Work, commuting, moving house or even a broken heart can cause your body to suffer varying levels of stress. A little stress is normal, but when the issue is prolonged and stress becomes a near constant factor in your life, that is when it can have a very negative impact on your mental and physical well being.
Stress can be harmful in many ways. It can;
- Play havoc with your emotions and put strain on your relationships with others.
- Trigger illness. Stress can impact your immune system and has also been linked to heart problems and the triggering of cancer cells. It can also seriously impact your mental health due to hormones released in response to stress. Stress can also lead to insomnia and drug and alcohol dependency which will further degrade your health.
- It can contribute to weight gain. Comfort eating when under stress is a factor in obesity.
- It is also lead to accelerated aging and premature death.1
Below are a few extra examples of what constant stress can do to your body, courtesy of The Huffington Post.
- Stress Health Effects: 10 Scary Things It's Doing To Your Body
When you're constantly feeling overwhelmed and anxious, the cumulative effects can be dangerous.
Making some changes
If you are finding stress to be a constant struggle, here are some simple things to try that might just help you get things under control.
- When you find yourself stressed try to avoid or at least cut back on stimulants such as coffee and energy drinks. It can be tempting to go for something that can give you a boost, but your body is already under enough pressure.Not to mention, the sugar can cause your energy levels to crash pretty hard when the sugar is depleted. Instead, try some water, herbal or green tea or diluted juices. This will help to hydrate your body. As I have mentioned in other blog posts, proper hydration can work wonders for your body and it is always a good idea to up your water intake as a rule in general.
- Breathe deeply. By taking some time to breathe deeply in and out, you will increase your oxygen intake which is helpful in calming the body and mind. Also, by taking the time to do this, you are giving yourself more time to think and assess the situation. How many times has someone told you to stop and count to 10 when you found yourself flustered or angry? Well its the same kind of principle. And although you may want to punch them when they suggest it, it still works.
- Work up a sweat.This is a personal favorite. You feel stress and tension not only on an emotional level, but on a physical level too. Your muscles tense up and you can suffer from all sorts of aches and pains. Exercises such as yoga can help stretch out these muscles and relieve that tense feeling. More demanding exercise such as cardio or weights can serve as an outlet for all that pent up frustration and emotion. It may not treat the cause of your stress, but it will definitely manage the symptoms. There also the obvious health benefits of regular exercise. Seeing your health and body improve is always a nice little mood booster.
- Take some time for yourself. I know it may not be easy to fit into a busy schedule but it is important to try and find a way to relax and wind down after a busy day. Even if you just find yourself stressing over small things, they can build up over time. Breathing exercises are not that time consuming and can be extremely helpful. Meditation, yoga and mindfulness exercises are also great ideas 2. You can use them alone or combine them according to how much free time you have in your schedule.
- Gain some perspective. When you find yourself facing a situation that is seemingly overwhelming, take some time to reassess the problem. Break it down into steps and figure out which parts in particular are causing you the most hassle. When these problems are singled out they can be further broken down and dealt with step by step. Talk to yourself and explain things out loud if necessary. Talking to yourself does not necessarily mean you are crazy despite the association so no need to worry. Even if something cannot be avoided, it is always helpful to remember that you have more control over things than you think. Breaking the situation down is a great way to regain a little of that control.
- Don't get anti-social. Blowing off some steam is always a good way to relieve some pent up feelings. It doesn't always have to involve alcohol, but having some fun with friends or family is a great way to spend your time. It can strengthen emotional bonds and relationships, and give you some much needed positivity. Close friends and family are a wonderful support system. They can listen to your fears and worries and as well as easing the pressure, they can help contribute to a possible solution. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved. On a side note, counselling is an alternative if the problems you are facing are proving to be exceptionally tricky. Some people find that talking to a stranger helps them to relax and share things that they might find difficult sharing with close friends and family. Counselling is very helpful in dealing with stress related to bereavement, sexual identity ,trauma and phobias.
- Grab a quick nap. Sometimes stress can keep you up at night and rob you of some much needed sleep. This is troublesome as a lack of sleep in turn, increases stress levels. However, studies have shown that even a 20 - 40 minute power nap can help undo some of the damage from missing a nights sleep.3 It can recharge your mind and body as well as regulating your hormones. Naps have also shown to be a much healthier way to boost energy levels compared to caffeine and stimulants.
- Think positively. Stress can come from focusing too hard on the negatives. For example, when you have a driving test coming up, you can sometimes flood your mind with all the things that can go wrong. As the day of the test comes closer, the pressure of these negative expectations can build and place enormous pressure on you. Instead, you should try to focus on things that can go right. As the exam has not happened yet, you need to reinforce the thought that there is no real basis to doubt yourself. Have confidence in your abilities, and remember if things do go wrong, it is in no way the end of the world. I understand that it is always easier said than done, but it is important to at least give it a try.
- Keep a stress diary. Another personal favorite. The benefits of keeping a stress diary are quite numerous. You can record stressful events, rate them, record how you managed the situation and even make notes on how you think the situation could have been handled better in case you need it for future reference. You can learn to identify triggers, deal with symptoms and recover in better time. You can also get creative with your notes by including things such as spider charts and idea bubbles. This is closely related to the idea of breaking down a challenge and taking back control of a situation.
- Learn to say no. The stress of an overbearing workload is becoming an increasingly common cause of illness in the workplace.So much so that in a study done by Capita, one of the leading benefit consultancy sites in the UK, they found that approximately 47% of employees know a colleague that decided to quit due to the stress of their workload.4 However, taking on too much is not only confined to the workplace. there are many stresses and responsibilities people pile on themselves on a daily basis. I know that sometimes it is difficult to refuse, especially when it comes to your boss or a loved one, but people need to realize when they have taken on too much. Whatever your boss, family or friends would like to tell you, there is such a thing as an unfair workload. Do not be afraid to remind them. if you find yourself worrying about your job, there are always steps to take to help your situation. Your employment rights are easy to find in a quick online search or by approaching a union, colleagues or some higher ups.
1 - http://www.healthline.com/health-news/mental-eight-ways-stress-harms-your-health-082713#1
2 - http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/stress-tips.html
3 - http://www.medicaldaily.com/health-benefits-napping-resting-can-help-reduce-stress-and-protect-immune-system-321580
4 - http://www.todayszaman.com/sundays-zaman_poor-management-heavy-workload-result-in-work-stress-doctors-say_357926.html
© 2015 Sean Gorman