Stress. We know you can’t avoid it, but we want to help you manage stress to prevent long-term adverse health problems. Stress is a natural reaction in our brain and body to respond to situations. However, it is important to understand and differentiate between the types of stress, when it is helpful and productive versus when it becomes dangerous, and how it impacts your health and wellbeing. We’re confident by incorporating various coping stress management strategies, you can avoid the nasty pitfalls of stress to live a more vibrant, healthy life.
10 Signs you are Stressed
- Muscle Tension
- Chest Pains
- Lower Sex Drive
- Unhealthy Food Relationships (overeating/undereating)
We like to think about stress in two categories: acute stress and chronic stress. Most likely, you’ve experienced acute stress (also sometimes called traumatic stress) in your life. These situations usually involve a triggering event such as a big deadline, an accident, a death, witnessing or being the victim of a crime, an illness, or a natural disaster. Your body triggers an acute stress response in these situations, also known as a fight or flight response. During an acute stress response, hormones are rapidly released, including adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol, preparing you to react mentally and physically. Think back to an “adrenaline rush,” and you may recall an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. Once the stressful situation was over, your body returned to normal within an hour. While this hormone response serves a critical, productive purpose in these situations, it becomes more dangerous in chronic stress cases.
Stress becomes chronic when you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, overworked, and pressured over an extended period. Chronic stress is often related to high-pressure jobs, raising kids, marriage, and financial insecurity. Living in this constant state of stress means your body remains in an elevated response state, overloaded with the continual release of those critical fight or flight hormones, damaging your physical, mental, and emotional health. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, premature aging, suppressed immune function, anxiety, and depression are just some of the health issues that may result from chronic stress. While you may not be able to eliminate many of the chronic stressors in your life, you can effectively manage your stress response.
Effective Stress Management Strategies
Exercise prompts the release of endorphins that produce a calming effect improving sleep, mental health, heart health, and blood pressure.
Reach for healthy options that nourish your brain and body. Avoid empty calories. Foods with excessive sugar and carbs contribute to energy highs and lows, brain fog, irritability, and weight gain. Striving for a balanced diet sets the foundation for improved coping abilities.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Set aside a few minutes a day for mindful relaxation. Deep breathing, stretching, yoga, meditation, reading for pleasure, or crafting are great ways to relax. Even carving our 5 minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply has been shown to have positive benefits.
Make time for Downtime
Do nothing. Literally. Make time to give your brain a break. Rest or do an activity simply for the pleasure of doing it. Lay in a hammock, walk barefoot in the grass, paint by numbers, or catch up with an old friend that you’ve meant to call. Allowing yourself to “turn off” for at least a few minutes will do wonders for boosting your mental health. Aim for 15-20 minutes, two to three times a week.
Build Your Stress Management Toolbox
Be thoughtful about how you can manage difficult, stressful situations. Have strategies at the ready that work for you such as time management, prioritizing goals, taking a short walk before a big presentation, or being mindful for a few minutes before a difficult task help keep prepared to approach various stressful situations.
Know When to Seek Help
If you have taken steps to control your stress, but your symptoms aren’t improving, that’s a sign it’s time to seek help from a healthcare professional so they can evaluate, diagnose, and treat underlying causes. Contact us for a consultation.
If you’re feeling helplessly overwhelmed and thinking of hurting yourself, go to the nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1. You can also anonymously contact the National Suicide Prevention 24/7 Crisis Lifeline at 800-273-8255, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org