What Are The Best Stress Management Techniques?
We all face stressful situations throughout our lives, ranging from minor annoyances like traffic jams to more serious worries, such as a loved one's grave illness. No matter what the cause, stress floods your body with hormones. Your heart pounds, your breathing speeds up, and your muscles tense.
This so-called “stress response” is a normal reaction to threatening situations, honed in our prehistory to help us survive threats like an animal attack or a flood. Today, we rarely face these physical dangers, but challenging situations in daily life can set off the stress response. We can't avoid all sources of stress in our lives, nor would we want to. But we can develop healthier ways of responding to them.
From minor challenges to major crises, stress is part of life. And while you can't always control your circumstances, you can control how you respond to them. When stress becomes overwhelming or it's chronic, it can take a toll on your well-being. That's why it's crucial to have effective stress relievers that can calm your mind and your body.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to stress relief, however. What works for one person might not work for another. And what works for you at home might not be an option when you're at work or in the community (dancing around your living room might be helpful, but dancing in the grocery store might not be). So it's essential to have a variety of stress relief tools at your disposal. Then, you'll be able to pick a strategy that works best for your current circumstances.
What Is Stress?
Stress is an emotional reaction to a perceived challenge or threat. This challenge or threat could be present in the environment you're in – for example, heightened stress during a time of increased crime. It could be something you perceive to be a change in your environment related to your work – a new boss, or a change like your responsibilities. It could also be a personal challenge that affects your relationships. Stress can bring with it physical and emotional symptoms.
“Stress is any situation in which your brain perceives, responds to, and interprets an event as a threat,” explains Joseph M. Dieleman, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at Penn State. “Your brain responds by diverting blood and oxygen away from your vital organs.
This oxygen shortage can trigger a rush of chemicals in your brain. They activate the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in more blood flow and a higher heart rate. This triggers adrenaline, a hormone that generates energy for your muscles.
This chemical can also raise your blood pressure and your blood sugar level, leaving you feeling weak and in control of your surroundings.” While everyone has stress in their lives at some point or another, certain situations trigger heightened stress levels.
Stress is a physiological and psychological response that occurs when you're mentally or physically tired. A stress response helps you respond to threats and challenges you face. Although you can't consciously exert a physical stress response, your body still participates in your overall stress response.
Your heart rate rises, your muscles tense, your breathing gets shallower, and your immune system becomes activated. A steady supply of oxygen and nutrients is delivered to your cells to facilitate the natural stress response. With stress hormones like cortisol increasing, the brain releases adrenaline and noradrenaline to enable you to move and think quickly in response to your stressful situation.
Signs Of Chronic Stress
Perhaps the most obvious sign of stress is a headache. Excess stress can lead to a dull ache that typically lasts less than 30 minutes and then subsides. But chronic stress can also cause chronic headaches, leading to migraines or even a brain tumour. A 2017 study found that chronic stress can elevate inflammation in the brain and cause brain lesions.
Excess pressure can also take its toll on your nervous system, leading to poor circulation and constipation, leading to anxiety or depression. Any of these can contribute to chronic stress, which is the most significant contributor to stress-related illnesses. A recent study found that chronic stress can cause a blood clot to form in the legs of mice and that that can lead to deadly blood clots.
Most people associate stress with how they feel. But the reality is that stress can be manifested by the way your body functions, by certain medical conditions, or even by some other factors, such as alcohol and tobacco use, excess weight, sleep problems, and inactive lifestyles. Chronic stress is also a risk factor for other medical issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Your body responds to stress by releasing the following hormones:
- Epinephrine: The body's stress response, which helps you either avoid or fight an oncoming threat.
- Cortisol: The “stress hormone” is responsible for much of the body's reaction to stress, and it has several important functions, including regulating your immune system and the production of antibodies.
When stress is continuous and severe, it can impact the heart, circulation, digestive system, immune system, and even brain. And it can result in high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, and worse health outcomes. Chronic stress can also impact your life expectancy and lead to psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression.
“Stressful situations can become the norm and create a condition of constant tension and nervousness,” says Jennifer Bohn, Ph.D., psychologist and life coach. “Some people may cope with such stress by acting on impulse, ruminating over the situation, or eating to ease stress.” If you notice a pattern in how much stress you're having and how it's impacting your health, talk to your doctor or mental health professional about how to deal with it.
Strategies For Managing Stress
Strategies for coping with stress include emotional regulation, introspection, cognitive coping, living in the moment, mindfulness, and other psychological principles. Many methods can work for you when facing any major challenge — be it at home or work — but some are more effective than others.
Here are a few basic and effective stress management techniques that are effective in reducing stress, or at least improving your ability to handle it: Emotional regulation, Taking a walk, listening to your favourite music, taking a warm bath, or even crying is a great way to release and process negative feelings. However, keep in mind that the amount of time that you can cry or let yourself feel emotional stress is an important factor.
It can be challenging to find methods that work for everyone. But these strategies can help you manage stress and avoid physical ailments: Learn to appreciate small victories. A person who frequently experiences anxiety and emotional distress tends to ruminate on negative events. It's natural to be concerned and upset when you're under a lot of stress, but try to focus on your progress.
When you take steps to get through the tough times, you become more resilient. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, you're less likely to make bad choices or make things worse in the future. Empower yourself. While this sounds counterintuitive, you may want to build your sense of control over situations rather than escaping them. Psychologists call this perspective-taking.
Before we dive in, though, here are some techniques to consider. And no, this isn't a comprehensive list. The key is to find a few things that work for you that you can use over and over. Exercise regularly: A 2011 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that adults who regularly exercise for at least 30 minutes per day had a 14% lower mortality risk than those who didn't.
Not only does exercise help your mental health, but it can also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and improve your mood. Quit smoking: For the same reason exercise can lower your risk of death, it can also help you live longer. According to the British Medical Journal, smoking cuts your life expectancy by 7.
The Effects Of Stress
By far the most common way people experience stress is by thinking about, thinking about, and thinking about. That's because chronic stress tends to put people in a state of rumination—thinking about the same thing repeatedly—for longer than is healthy.
They're then more likely to experience mental and physical symptoms that can range from irritation to physical pain. As a result, stress can be exhausting. It can also lead to a host of chronic health problems, including cardiovascular disease, headaches, depression, ulcers, gastrointestinal disorders, and problems with the immune system.
It's clear that stress isn't good for us, but how can you tell if you're experiencing stress, or if you're just having a difficult day? Research shows that chronic stress isn't good for you, because it can cause high blood pressure, weight gain, ulcers, and heart problems.
But these chronic conditions are treatable, and a few daily stress-busting techniques can help you to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Any activity is better than no activity when it comes to stress relief, but physical activity does wonders for your body and mind. Studies show that exercising regularly can reduce stress levels by up to 41 percent. Do some light exercise every day.
Stress causes us to react without considering how we feel. The body goes into fight or flight mode as the body releases adrenaline and the brain launches the cortisol (stress) hormone. These hormones affect your metabolism, in turn causing your body to break down fat stores for energy.
Meanwhile, it stimulates the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol and other hormones, including the peptides CRH and ACTH. The adrenal glands regulate hormones, including blood sugar, immune function, and the production of sex hormones. Our adrenal glands respond to stress by releasing hormones that help us manage our emotions and adjust to the stress we're experiencing.
The Role Of Stress In Our Lives
Stress affects everyone, even those who don't think they're particularly prone to it. And, unfortunately, research shows that it affects women in particular, with stress being a more serious factor than for men. According to an article in The New York Times,
“In 2011, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center found that women are at greater risk of experiencing stress than men, even when controlling for risk factors such as age and social class. They are also more likely to develop an unhealthy level of stress.” And, while women are also more likely to have to deal with family and work responsibilities on top of their mental health needs, that doesn't mean that they don't experience stress.
Stress is common. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), nearly 50% of Americans have reported at least once a month of high stress. At one time or another, people all around the world experience anxiety, depression and illness because of stress. Stress can have an enormous impact on your physical health and the quality of your life.
Stress contributes to high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, high blood sugar, cancer and even early death. Our brains are designed to receive signals of stress, which is why we feel emotionally exhausted when we're stressed out. However, the same biological system that gives you the ability to recognize stress can actually make you more stressed out by fueling your fight-or-flight response.
Stress can cause us to get stressed out. But what happens when stress becomes chronic? Or, to put it another way, when we feel a continuous buildup of stress? Chronic stress, which can be brought on by burnout, can take a toll on our health and overall well-being. If we're constantly under stress and our bodies don't know how to release that stress,
it can create tension in our bodies and can result in stress symptoms, like anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and low self-esteem. Stress that feels constant is known as psychosomatic or event-related stress, which can occur when we anticipate a stressful event. To put it simply, your body needs balance in order to perform at its best.
Affordable And Effective Stress Management Techniques
You're not alone if you'd like to reduce your stress levels. Whether you have more time for exercise or not, you can still find the time to treat your mind and body to a bit of well-earned rest. It might not be your first thought when you think about stress relief, but making time for exercise can have a major impact on your health and quality of life.
A 2013 study found that a moderate amount of exercise actually can help you get rid of stimes. But even if you do have a bit more time, it doesn't time you have to sit around all day. Make time for exercise by scheduling it in your day – whatever that means for you.
There are plenty of inexpensive, effective stress relievers to choose from. When stress becomes unbearable, even a few minutes of guided meditation can calm your nerves and bring you into a meditative state. This type of practice is relatively easy to practice at home, but also easy to do when travelling on vacation.
Simply download a meditation app or set a timer on your phone and start breathing slowly and deeply. When the timer goes off, take a few moments to center yourself and follow through on your mantra (a set of calming affirmations you repeat to yourself during the practice). Spending Time Alone – Going back to our list of stress relievers, the one time overlooked is the simple act of spending time alone.
You don't need to spend a lot of money to help reduce your stress levels. Many of the best stress-relieving techniques are free. But that doesn't mean you should use time at home. Although meditation, yoga, and time in nature are great stress-reducers, they should not be considered first-line solutions.
Instead, consider these solutions if you're having trouble breathing and focusing during periods of high stress.
- Meditation: Meditation is becoming an increasingly popular stress-relieving technique. And that's because it's a simple way to get some peace and quiet. More and more studies have shown the stress-relieving benefits of meditation, but there's still much more to learn about the practice. Still, the most important thing is that meditation works.
The Power Of Support And Social Interaction
We all want support. But many of us feel as though we don't have any. The truth is, we all need it from time to time. What makes for effective support, however, is often different from what makes for effective social interaction. Support is a feeling of being cared for. It's a feeling of being needed. It's being seen, even when we feel alone.
Social interaction is something we do together. It's an effort to form connections with other people who are different from us. You can't support someone unless you know them well and can communicate with them on a deeper level. In many cases, the one thing you have in common is stress. Building a relationship on those grounds can be helpful when you're feeling under the gun.
Everyone reacts differently to stress, and it's possible that one person can go weeks or months without breaking down, while another might feel their stress building up until it overflows at the most inopportune moments. The best way to work through your anxiety and stress, however, is through the use of social interaction.
Studies show that engaging in social interaction with others is associated with lower levels of stress and more positive feelings. That's because when you talk to others, you get the feeling of being needed and needed for something. This kind of interaction makes you less of a burden to others and more of a source of support.
Stress Managing stress and overcoming challenges are skills that are best learned. And that's where practical tools can come into play. But for many of us, including busy parents who are rushing to soccer practise and school meetings, and small business owners who are focused on growing their business, stress is an ever-present part of our lives.
And that's where experts like Jennifer Barrett come in. Barrett is a health and wellness expert, as well as the creator of a program designed to help busy parents manage stress. She's also the founder of Aha Moments, an online community for parents to get support from and find new ways to manage their lives.
When you're feeling stressed or are in a situation that's making you anxious, breathing exercises can help calm your body down. Practice focusing on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly. Try to maintain this breath for three seconds. Do this as many times as you need to, but keep breathing until your mind goes completely silent.
The sounds of rain, chirping birds, running water, and wind in the trees can all have a calming effect on your mind. If you don't have access to a natural source, you can turn to music or soft, soothing sounds. One way to help you relax is to breathe through the abdomen and out the mouth. You can also perform these types of exercises in silence to help you control your breath.
Yoga And Meditation
One of the most popular stress-relieving techniques, yoga is generally considered to be effective when practiced regularly and incorporates breathing, meditation, and physical movement. “It really relaxes your body and your mind, and gets you out of your head,” says Audrey C. Riendeau, MA, LPC, a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of Still Learning Counseling, LLC in Grand Haven.
The benefits of yoga include reducing muscle tension, increasing circulation, and allowing your mind to clear. Exercise can also help with your mental health—and some studies have shown that even light exercise can alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety. When you find yourself in a state of high stress, it's important to take a few minutes to take deep breaths and clear your mind.
When it comes to calming your mind, yoga and meditation are ideal options. “There's a huge difference between traditional yoga and traditional meditation,” says Laura McLean, founder and CEO of YOGA and Uplift Transformations, a comprehensive meditation retreat, which offers retreats around the world. “Yoga is the physical practice of stretching and breathing and strengthening one's mind,” McLean explains that the goal of traditional yoga is to help you release physical tension and release toxins from your body.
Stress is a universal and ever-present problem. Even if you're managing your money and your household finances, your personal and professional life can still be stressful. That's why it's important to recognize the signs of stress and be prepared to act when you feel overwhelmed. Make a conscious effort to learn about stress relief and incorporate these stress management techniques into your daily life. With a little bit of planning, you can do a lot to take control of your well-being.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. And while it's necessary for your well-being, it's also difficult. Understanding stress and the steps you can take to manage it is the first step in managing your daily stresses. Once you're able to do this, you'll be able to shift your focus to new opportunities and issues. At the end of the day, your goal is to live a healthy and productive life, not to suffer from chronic stress or let the daily stresses get to you.
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