How to Manage Stress
With so many thing to worry about on a daily basis, it's easy to let these disturbances build up and leave you feeling unnecessarily stressed out. It's important to be mindful of this pressure and learn healthy ways of coping with stress in order to live your happiest and best life. However, this can be easier said than done as learning and implementing the most effective stress management techniques for you takes research, hard work, and dedication.
What is Stress?
Stress is a state of mental or physical tension as a result of circumstances in an individual's environment. When stressed, an individual's body thinks it's under attack and thus switches into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which releases a complex mix of hormones and chemicals in order to prepare the body for physical action. Some of these physical involuntary physical reactions include restricting blood flow to muscles, in addition to shutting down some necessary bodily functions, such as digestion. While this is helpful in dangerous situations, the challenge is when the body goes into this mode during inappropriate times, which results in stress. Since blood flow is being restricted, brain function is limited, which explains why we can’t think clearly during stressful times. If someone experiences stress for a prolonged period of time, it can be detrimental to their health.
Stress can have a wide ranging effects on behavior, mood, and emotions because it affects key body systems such as:
- Nervous system
- Musculoskeletal system
- Respiratory system
- Cardiovascular system
- Endocrine system
- Gastrointestinal system
- Reproductive system
20 Common Signs and Symptoms of Stress
- Insomnia, nightmares, and trouble sleeping
- Jaw pain, clenching, or grinding teeth
- Trembling of lips and hands
- Rashes, itches, hives, or bumps
- Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Chest pain, heart palpitations, or trouble breathing
- Excessive worry, guilt, or nervousness
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Frequent colds, infections, or herpes sores
- Difficulty concentrating or overthinking
- Forgetfulness, confusion, disorganization
- Increased frustration or irritability
- Nervous habits or fidgeting
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Unexplainable changes in weight
- Constant fatigue or weakness
- Increased smoking, drug, or alcohol use
- Social withdraw or isolation
While symptoms vary among individuals, its important to recognize any changes in the behaviors listed above if you think you or a loved one may be experiencing excessive stress.
Effects of Stress
Learning how to deal with stress is important because, when untreated, it can affect an individual's physical and emotional health. Stress has been linked to such disorders as depression, anxiety, heart attacks, strokes, and immune system disorders that increase the likelihood of infections such as colds, herpes, AIDS, and some cancers. It can also affect the gastrointestinal system, leading to issues such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis, in addition to directly affecting the skin with with things like rashes and hives. Stress can also contribute to insomnia and increased susceptibility to neurological disorders such as Parkinson's.
How to Relieve Stress
At TouchPoint, we encourage mindfulness and want to help everybody live life to the fullest. Here are some easy relaxation techniques to incorporate into your daily routine:
Take a Break
Taking a break from something that is causing you stress may seem counter productive, but stepping away from a stresser for as little as 20 minutes can actually be very beneficial. Whether its a test you are cramming for, an important meeting you are preparing for, or a house of people to entertain, taking a short break can help you to feel less overwhelmed and provide you with a new perspective.
Spend Time with Friends
We are social creatures by nature, so it makes sense why confiding in a friend or loved one about the cause of your worrying can help reduce your stress. Whether it's in person or via text, confiding in someone you trust can help validate your feelings and relieve some of the pressure you put on yourself. This can also provide you with a different perspective and boost your confidence.
Similar to to taking a break, moving your body can help clear your mind. If you are strapped on time, try taking a quick walk, run, swim, or exercise class. A quick exercise is worth the time investment because it can give you an immediate effect that can last for hours. In your daily life, try incorporating more physical activity whenever you can. For example, instead of waiting for the elevator, take the stairs for a quick burst of cardio that will get your blood flowing. Though it may feel like a small change, it can have a big impact on your mind and body health.
Have a Laugh
Laughter truly is the best medicine. When we are stressed, we tend to hold a lot of tension in our faces because the brain is closely connected with emotions and facial expressions. That's why one of the first signs of stress is clenching your jaw or wrinkling your brows. Watching your favorite comedy movie or spending time with a friend that always makes you smile can help with stress relief by minimizing that tension.
Whether in the form of meditation or thoughtful prayer, mindfulness helps the body and mind to relax. Similar to exercise, research shows that practicing meditation even briefly can have profound immediate and lasting effects on individuals because it promotes self-compassion, forgiveness, and can help uncover new perspectives.