Worry Can Cause A Stress Response
Ongoing worry can quickly evolve into chronic stress. When you have a stress response, you may have a tough time identifying exactly what worrying thoughts got you there.
Over time, repetitive negative thoughts can trigger other stress responses in your body. While it may seem like your mind is going a mile a minute, tracking your thoughts and the physical sensations in your body can help slow stress.
How Worrying Affects Your Body
One of the most insidious parts about worrying is the effect it has on our physical, mental, and emotional health. In fact, over a third of Americans visited a doctor over a stress-related illness in 2018, and many illnesses may be perpetuated by stress. If this sounds like you, its time to learn how to stop worrying.
Along with causing physical symptoms, worry and stress can also make it harder to recover from illness. Here are a few ways worry may be impacting your overall well-being.
Tip : Talk About Your Worries
It may seem like a simplistic solution, but talking face to face with a trusted friend or family membersomeone who will listen to you without judging, criticizing, or continually being distractedis one of the most effective ways to calm your nervous system and diffuse anxiety. When your worries start spiraling, talking them over can make them seem far less threatening.
Keeping worries to yourself only causes them to build up until they seem overwhelming. But saying them out loud can often help you to make sense of what youre feeling and put things in perspective. If your fears are unwarranted, verbalizing them can expose them for what they areneedless worries. And if your fears are justified, sharing them with someone else can produce solutions that you may not have thought of alone.
Build a strong support system. Human beings are social creatures. Were not meant to live in isolation. But a strong support system doesnt necessarily mean a vast network of friends. Dont underestimate the benefit of a few people you can trust and count on to be there for you. And if you dont feel that you have anyone to confide in, its never too late to build new friendships.
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Acute Versus Chronic Stress
The experience of stress can be either acute or chronic. Acute stress usually occurs in response to a short-term stressor, like a car accident or an argument with your spouse. Acute stress can be very distressing, but it passes quickly and typically responds well to coping techniques like calming breathing or brisk physical activity.
Chronic stress occurs when stressors dont let up. The roots of chronic stress can vary widely, from situations people can control or avoid to difficulties that are hard to escape . Because people respond differently to stressful circumstances, a situation that one person might find tolerable can become a source of chronic stress for another.
Chronic stress can damage both mental and physical health. Being chronically stressed may leave you feeling fatigued, sap your ability to concentrate and cause headaches and digestive difficulties. People prone to irritable bowel syndrome often find that their symptoms spike with psychological stress.15 Though acute stress can heighten certain immune responses, the wear-and-tear of chronic stress is bad for the immune system.16 Chronic stress can also affect cardiac health, with multiple studies finding a link between chronic stress and the development of coronary artery disease.17
The American Psychological Association gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Beverly Thorn, PhD, in developing this fact sheet.
Stop Worrying By Sharing Your Fears With Supportive Friends And Family
Its easy to get lost in your thoughts as a chronic worrier, forgetting about family and friends without realizing it. Connecting with others is a powerful method to transform your emotional well-being, even when you feel like isolating.
Sharing the source of your stress, anxiety, or worry with a family member or friend can help you maintain perspective. Many times, our worries are irrational, but they dont seem that way in our own minds.
Talking with supportive friends or family can offer a new view of the situation and be an effective way to stop worrying.
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How To Eat Mindfully
, a holistic-living center in Bedford, N.Y. Most people have a general sense of what the healthy foods are, but theyre not eating them. Whats on your mind when youre eating: Thats mindful eating to me.
Heres a simple exercise to try next time you are sitting down to a delicious meal:
Your friends and family can be both a cause of stress and a cure for it.
Think About Something Funny
Visualize your favorite humorous moments, says Sultanoff. One where you laughed so hard you fell down and peed your pants. These can be real situations, or they can be situations you saw on sitcoms, in stories, jokes, or cartoons.
If its difficult for you to come up with something in the moment, try picking a couple of memories ahead of time, so you can go to them as soon as you start experiencing anxiety.
Like most mindfulness training, humor visualization takes you out of worrying about things that might happen in the future and focuses you back in your present circumstances, in the now.
It does a few other things too. You experience mirth, which is the uplifting reaction to humor, explains Sultanoff. You feel emotions such as joy, pleasure, or delight all powerful emotions that can help you reduce anxiety quickly.
And if youre able to make yourself laugh by remembering that funny moment, he says, humor visualization is even more effective.
When you laugh, you contract and expand muscles, which reduces physical anxiety, stress, and tension, he says.
Laughter also combats the production of cortisol levels in the body, he adds.
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Learn To Avoid Procrastination
Another way to take control of your stress is to stay on top of your priorities and avoid procrastinating.
Procrastination may harm your productivity and leave you scrambling to catch up. This can cause stress, which negatively affects your health and sleep quality .
A study in 140 medical students in China linked procrastination to increased stress levels. The study also associated procrastination and delayed stress reactions with more negative parenting styles, including punishment and rejection .
If you find yourself procrastinating regularly, it may be helpful to get in the habit of making a to-do list organized by priority. Give yourself realistic deadlines and work your way down the list.
Work on the things that need to get done today and give yourself chunks of uninterrupted time. Switching between tasks or multitasking can be stressful in itself.
If you find yourself regularly procrastinating, staying on top of your to-do list may help ward off related stress.
Is My Stress Level Too High
Maybe itâs your demanding boss, morning gridlock, or relationship problems with a friend or family member. Whatever the cause, itâs likely you experience some level of stress on a daily basis.
But while some day-to-day stress is normal , chronic, overwhelming stress can have a negative impact on your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Knowing how to spot the signs and symptoms that youâre under too much stress can help you stay aware and address the issues before they harm your health.
Put Relaxation And Self
A fully packed schedule would make a lot of people feel stressed. Make sure you take time out each day for at least one thing you enjoy doing whether its spending time on a hobby, watching a Netflix episode, or chatting with a friend. It can also help if you schedule the activity into your day, so that you dont feel guilty about not doing something else. Read our guide to relaxation for more ideas.
If youre feeling overwhelmed, dont be afraid to say no to things when you need to.
Stress And Anxiety Relief: 10 Strategies That Can Help
Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life. Sometimes they can even be a good thing. They can inspire you to take action and do your best when it really matters.
The problem is when feelings of stress and anxiety get out of control. Then these feelings cannot only impair your performancethey can also make you sick. Chronic stress can have a number of serious health consequences including decreased immunity, decreased longevity, and a higher risk for anxiety disorders.
Stress is a response to a potential threat, while anxiety is the reaction to that stress. Unfortunately, both are incredibly common among U.S. adults and evidence suggests that recent world events have made the problem worse for many people. Nearly 8 in 10 adults report increased stress levels as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While you cant avoid all of the stress in your life, there are stress and anxiety relief strategies that can help you cope more effectively. This article discusses some self-help techniques that can help you get a handle on stress and anxiety. It also covers when to consider talking to a professional.
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Try Some Aerobic Activity
During periods of anxiety, your body is filled with adrenaline. Putting that adrenaline toward aerobic activity can be a great way to improve your anxiety. Exercise has numerous advantages for controlling your anxiety symptoms:
- Exercise burns away stress hormones that create anxiety symptoms.
- Exercise tires your muscles, reducing excess energy and tension.
- Exercise releases endorphins in your brain which can improve overall mood.
- Exercise is linked to healthier breathing.
- Exercise is a healthy distraction.
Aerobic activity, like light jogging or even fast walking, can be extremely effective at reducing the severity of your anxiety symptoms, as well as the anxiety itself.
Keep Your Mind Peaceful
Just as its important to keep yourself healthy physically, its also important to do so mentally. Relaxation techniques and mind-body activities such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help you relax, focus, and develop new perspectives. Like exercise, mind-body activities have been shown to have immediate benefits. Another way to relieve stress fast is by finding your happy place by doing something you enjoy, whether its reading, spending time on a hobby, or relaxing in a bathtub.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Stress
Stress can affect all parts of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions. So it is important to discuss them with your doctor. You may have any of the following symptoms of stress.
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, as if you are losing control or need to take control
- Having a hard time relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself , and feeling lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
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What Happens When We Dont Manage Stress Effectively
In small doses, stress can actually be useful as it helps you to stay focused, alert and increases energy. But when stress becomes chronic though, it can damage your health, mood and relationships. Basically, your overall quality of life!
Stress is sneaky! It can easily creep up on you so that being frazzled and overwhelmed starts to feel normal. You may not even recognize how much it is affecting you so it is really important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and then take steps to stop feeling so overwhelmed.
Listen To Good Mood Music
Music can have a powerful effect on your mood and on anxiety. They key however is to not just choose songs you like. but also make sure that you are listening to music that represents the way you want to feel. Happy or relaxing music can directly impact your mood and the way you feel.
While many people find it soothing to listen to angry music when theyâre angry or sad music when theyâre sad, the truth is that this type of music will only help you get in touch with those negative emotions. That won’t help you feel better. When you’re trying to stop anxiety, you should listen to music that will help you feel the way you want to feel.
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Excessive Worry Can Make You Physically Ill
Physical signs can be the first sign that constant worrying is becoming a problem. Headaches, stomach aches, and shortness of breath can indicate that youre experiencing excessive worry.
- Stomach pain, nausea, or other gastrointestinal problems
- Sweating more than usual
- Feeling restless, tense, or paranoid
These symptoms can also serve as a sign to examine how youre feeling. You may need to practice deep breathing and focus on relieving your worry. Ultimately, one of the first steps towards learning how to stop worrying is to identify these physical symptoms.
Don’t Just Seek Support Give It
If you lead a highly stressful life, the solution may be to add one more task to your daily to-do list. Give back.
Research consistently shows that helping other people and giving social support is a powerful way to manage the stress in your life and boost your resilience. Volunteer work, mentoring, mowing your elderly neighbors lawn, listening to a friend who is struggling all these can enhance your own ability to manage stress and thrive.
Time spent helping others, sharing our knowledge and providing social and emotional support gives meaning and purpose to our lives, said Adam Grant, a Wharton management professor and co-author of the book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy with Sheryl Sandberg. Getting out of yourself and helping others may be even more powerful than receiving social support.
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Cut Out Things That Add To Your Stress
Sometimes, the best way to reduce your stress is to cut something out of your life. Get rid of the things that are adding to your stress so you can experience more peace.
Watching the news, being constantly connected to your digital devices, drinking alcohol, and consuming too much caffeine are just a few of the things that may add more stress to your life. Making some changes to your daily habits could be instrumental in helping you feel better.
Do I Need Treatment For Anxiety
Thereâs a lot you can do on your own to relieve anxiety, but sometimes you need help. Psychotherapy and medication are the two main treatments for anxiety disorders.
Signs that itâs time to talk to a mental health professional include:
- Constant or nearly constant anxiety
- Anxiety that gets in the way of your daily activities, like work or social life
- Anxiety about things that donât actually threaten you
- Panic attacks
Check your health insurance policy to see what mental health services your plan covers. Then, review a list of your in-network providers to find one to connect with.
âYou donât want to add to your anxiety by paying big out-of-pocket fees,â Kissen says.
Your primary care doctor may also be able to recommend a mental health professional with experience treating anxiety and anxiety disorders.
Rosmarin notes that itâs important to find a provider you click with and trust. He also says therapy doesnât need to go on indefinitely to be effective.
âA course of cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety may be eight to 10 sessions,â he says. âThereâs also data to suggest that people feel substantially better after just one therapy session for panic disorder.â
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