Managing Your Stress (Part Four)

Today is the final day of this series about stress and I wanted to end on a high note.  I hope to assist you with ways to help alleviate your stress. Please remember that, although stress is all around us, stress can be managed and there are quite a few things that you can do to manage your stress.  Hopefully one of these things can assist you on your quest to alleviate your stress.

1. Journaling.  Get some of those thoughts out of your head and on paper. Journaling can also help you notice patterns in your behavior and can help you with your self-reflection.

2. Exercising. Stress can be relieved through exercise because exercising produces endorphins which reduce your stress levels. Regular exercise can go a long way in your efforts to manage your stress.

3. Laughing.  Have you ever had a good, deep belly laugh that pulled you out of a bad mood? Laughter can take your mind off of your stressor while easing a lot of muscle tension.

4. Meditation.  Meditation allows you to get to such a deep place of relaxation that you are able to sort through all of your jumbled thoughts. Your anxiety may be eased if you are able to sort your thoughts and tackle them one at a time and not all at once.

5. Eat healthily. Eating foods high in nutrients can help improve your mood and energy which can reduce stress. Foods that are rich in Vitamin C, as well as some herbal supplements, can help to reduce stress.

6. Reading.  Reading allows you to escape your reality and enter someone else’s reality. This allows you to take your mind off of the things that are stressing you out and allow you to relax.  This temporary escape from your reality can keep you from being overwhelmed.

7. Slowing down your thoughts.  This may sound simple but it is one of the hardest things to do. Slowing down my thoughts has helped me greatly. Stress can sometimes come from the feeling of being overwhelmed and having to figure out everything at once. Slowing down your thoughts allows you to focus on one thing at a time.

8. Breathing deeply. Breathing deep breaths when stress threatens to overwhelm you helps to relax your body and relieve tensions. It also helps you with being able to clear your mind to the point where you can put your stressors in perspective.

9. Therapy.  If the stress that you are trying to manage feels that it is unmanageable, please consider getting help from a therapist. Excessive stress can be an indicator of other mental illnesses that need to be addressed by a professional.

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Please remember if the stress is so overwhelming that you just feel like nothing you do is helpful, please see a professional. Comment if there are some things that you have done to alleviate stress that was not included on this list.

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Managing Your Stress (Part Three)

So far in this series on stress management we have talked about myths/misconceptions, lesser-known symptoms of stress, and some common causes of stress. Today, I will be discussing the effects that stress has on your mental health. I wanted to give the effects of stress on your mental health a day of its own because it is just that important. It is sometimes hard to identify the effects that stress has on your mental health because it is not as obviously seen as physical symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms can sneak up on you and become a part of your being before you even realize that stress is what got you there. 

Stress can affect your mental health in several ways but here are just a few.

Anxiety. Constant stress can lead to anxiety, which is a feeling of fear or worry. Anxiety can affect your mental health if it begins to interfere with your daily routine. Unchecked anxiety can lead to a lack of concentration, racing thoughts, excessive worry, amongst other things that can have harmful effects on your psychological health.

Depression. Stress can break down all of your body’s defenses. It impacts your sleep, your ability to focus, as well as your mood to the point where you can begin to feel like you are not yourself. Depression is a feeling of being sad or just not interested in those things that used to interest you. Chronic stress can wear you down to the point where you can almost become numb to what is going on around you. This numbness can lead to depression.

Loneliness. Some things that cause you stress may be so personal that you do not feel like you can share them with anyone. As the thoughts begin to stress you and worry you, you may begin to feel lonely. The feelings of loneliness will keep you from reaching out to people to receive help. Keeping everything inside can lead to more feelings and loneliness and negatively impact your psychological health.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  If your stress is caused by a prolonged traumatic event that has occurred over a period of time or a single traumatic event, the impact of that stress can stay with you in the form of PTSD. We often think of PTSD when we think of soldiers who were in combat – but PTSD can also be a very real thing for those individuals who have been in abusive relationships, endured some type of abuse in their childhood, or have witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD is a very real disorder that can impact your mental health if not addressed.

Alcoholism or substance abuse.  Being consumed by stress can make you feel a variety of things – jittery, uncertain, anxious. A lot of people feel that these feelings are unbearable and all they want to do is ease the discomfort or numb the pain. For many, stress can lead to alcohol and substance abuse as a way to alleviate stress.

Comment below if you have either experienced these effects of stress or if you can add to the list of ways stress has affected your mental health.

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Managing Your Stress (Part Two)

Can you pinpoint exactly what causes you stress?  It could be one major thing, or it could be a combination of several things. Many of us would say our current state of affairs is causing us stress. The country is slowly beginning to open back up now, but for a while, we were all feeling disconnected from our families and communities.

People perceive stressors differently and people respond to stressors differently. People often pinpoint work, finances, health concerns, and family responsibilities as being major sources of stress.  Those are the major reasons people stress but let us peel away the layers and examine why these things are stressful.

Uncertainty. This is what was (and is) causing so much stress during our time of quarantining and isolation. We did not really know much. When was it going to end? How was it going to end? What would life look like when it ended? One question would always lead to another and the not knowing was extremely stressful. Suspense and foreboding are great when it comes to a movie or a novel, but not when it comes to our lives. COVID-19 has caused many people to lose their jobs or have their hours cut.  This could lead to a lot of uncertainty. An uncertain health report could lead to stress because of all the uncertainty. Stress due to uncertainty is related to us being uncomfortable with not having control over every aspect of our lives.

Being Overwhelmed. Many of us have a lot going on with work, children, our hobbies, etc. It is easy to become overwhelmed especially when it seems like there is always something to be done and something that needs attention. Becoming overwhelmed can happen in a multitude of settings. A sudden job loss, the death of a loved one, or even a positive life event like a marriage can be overwhelming. The feeling of being overwhelmed can become so intense that it will literally take your breath away.

Unrealistic expectations. Sometimes we become stressed mainly because of the stress that we put on ourselves. We sometimes hold ourselves to such high expectations that disappointment and frustration is the only outcome. When we overcommit ourselves or have unrealistic expectations for ourselves, stress is inevitable. A great example of this would be a parent who is trying to balance work life and family life. The expectation that you can give 100% both at work and at home is not inconceivable but can be a heavy burden to put on yourself.

Comment below some of the things that cause you stress.

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Managing Your Stress (Part One)

What causes you stress? Money? Your job? Family responsibilities?

And what physically happens to you when you begin to stress? Sweaty palms? Headaches? Chest pain?

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension that results from adverse or very demanding circumstances. We all perceive stress differently but the reality is that stress can be very harmful to health if you do not manage it properly. Let me first dispel a few myths about stress.

  1. Only major symptoms need to be addressed.  Most of us are aware of the more prominent symptoms of stress such as high blood pressure and headaches, but there are other lesser-known symptoms that should alert us that something is not right. Stress can also cause you to have muscle spasms, skin itchiness/rashes, and a weakened immune system. All of these things are symptoms that should not be overlooked but often are due to us not being aware that they are indicators that our bodies are operating under a heightened level of stress.
  2. Stress is everywhere and cannot be avoided.  I used to believe this myth because my life was so stressful that it felt as if the stress could not be avoided. What I learned is that even if you feel that stress cannot be avoided, it can definitely be managed. The idea that stress is everywhere and just a part of life can lead to dangerous health consequences.
  3. No symptoms, no stress.  Some of us live in a constant state of stress. And just because we do not have the classic symptoms of stress, does not mean we are not stressed. Thinking that you are not stressed just because you do not have the classic symptoms of stress can be detrimental.

Many of us are aware of the more common ways that your body reacts to stress: tension headaches, back pain, chest pain, stomach issues, etc. But let’s talk about some of the lesser-known ways that stress can impact you.

  1. Hair loss/graying and skin issues. Stress can be a contributing factor to hair loss and premature graying. Skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne can be more severe if you are stressed.
  2. Immune health.  Stress causes your immune system to lose its effectiveness in fighting off antigens which could make you more likely to get sick.
  3. Excessive sleeping or insomnia.  When your body is under a high level of stress, it often tries to control that stress through rest. This could lead to you noticing that you are sleeping a lot. Or your stress can be so overwhelming that you may not be able to sleep, which could lead to insomnia.
  4. Memory loss.  When you are stressed and your mind is occupied by the thoughts that are stressing you out, you have a tendency not to remember things. Difficulty focusing can make you forget details and make it hard to concentrate.
  5. Racing thoughts.  If you are stressing about a particular issue that is causing you to worry, the stress can make your thoughts go down a rabbit hole. When this happens, your thoughts begin to run wild with each thought being more worrisome and stressful than the one before it.

Comment if you know of or have experienced any other lesser known symptoms of stress. Please join me tomorrow as I talk about the common causes of stress.

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