How to Manage Stress
The demands of life are constant and never-ending. When the list continues to grow and pressure becomes too much, it may lead to a familiar feeling of stress. Stress can affect our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Stress will happen in life, but how we handle it determines how much it affects us.
What is Stress?
Stress is a feeling of being tense, overwhelmed, worn out, or exhausted. A small amount of stress can be motivating, but too much stress makes even small tasks seem daunting. Symptoms can range from mild (e.g., headaches and stomachaches) to severe (e.g., anxiety and depression). There are two different types of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stress is short-term and more common where chronic stress develops over a longer period and is more harmful.
The first step to managing stress is being aware of the signs and symptoms of stress. Common signs and symptoms of stress include:
- Feelings of constant worry or anxiety
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings or changes in your mood
- Irritability or having a short temper
- Difficulty relaxing
- Low self-esteem
- Eating more or less than usual
- Changes in your sleeping habits
- Using alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs to relax
- Aches and pains, particularly muscle tension
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Feelings of nausea or dizziness
- Loss of sex drive
Triggers of stress can be from various life events including:
- Job issues or retirement
- Lack of money or time
- Family problems
- Miscarriages or abortion
- Big life changes including marriage, having children, or moving
- Driving in heavy traffic
- Excessive noise or overcrowding
- Uncertainty or waiting for an important outcome
Knowing our body’s response to stress is important as well. Physical symptoms may include:
- Chest or back pain
- Fainting, headaches
- Heart racing
- Cramps or muscle spasms, etc.
Learning how to combat stress is vital to not letting it run your life. Here are helpful ways to cope with stress:
- Recognize and build awareness that you are stressed and look at what is causing that stress in your life.
- Look at your priorities and refocus them on what you desire your life to be like.
- Use your social support system - friends, family, community, and therapist are just some examples of people that can support you. Identify current people in your life and potential sources of social support.
- Relaxation Techniques - Set aside time to relax and practice deep breathing and body scans. Practicing mindfulness and controlling our body’s response can help decrease stress and anxiety. The more you practice in your day-to-day life will allow you to gravitate towards using those skills when you find yourself in a stressful situation.
- Find hobbies and engage in self-care - Spend time doing things you enjoy and that bring you happiness. This creates the ability to destress and fill your life with more positivity.
- Exercise regularly - Exercising can help relieve stress whether it is a 10 min. walk outside or gong to the gym, any form of physical activity helps.
- Sleep Hygiene - Getting an average of 8 hours of sleep per night, consistently is best. Having a sleep routine helps calm your body before bed and allows you to shift from your hectic life to relaxation. Some examples of sleep routines can include washing your face, taking a bath, turning off electronics one hour before bed, drinking tea, reading, or listening to calming music.
- Reduce intake of alcohol, drugs, and caffeine - These substances can make stress worse and heighten emotions especially during difficult times.
- Take a break - Stepping away from the stressful situation to regroup yourself and your thoughts can be helpful. Whether it is getting quiet time and journaling your thoughts, taking a day off work for your mental health, going on vacation, or saying no to events for self-care can help with de-stressing.
- See a therapist to help with transitions, overwhelming thoughts, boundary setting and wanting to create positive changes in your life.
Please visit goodtherapysandiego.com or contact us at (619) 330-9500 to get started with a therapist today!