How To Identify And Reduce Stress In Your Life
Stress is a part of daily life and is only becoming more of a presence in this increasingly-connected world.
This can be a problem, as there are all sorts of negative physical and psychological effects of leading an overly-stressed life.
This article will discuss some causes of stress and the negative effects that result from stress. There are also plenty of easy ways to reduce stress and increase ones well-being, though, so this article will end on a positive note by providing actionable ways anyone can reduce stress in their lives.
First, a distinction must be made between positive stress and negative stress .
Positive stress is healthy stress, such as the stress which pushes us to prepare for an exam, a job interview, or another important event. Negative stress, on the other hand, is unhealthy stress, such as stress which leads one to think they are not good enough for the exam, job interview, or other events they are preparing for, and does not help their preparation for or performance on the event.
While both types of stress are important to research and discuss, in this piece we will focus on negative stress , the unhealthy stress we face in our daily lives.
Before you start reading, we thought you might like to . These science-based exercises will equip you and those you work with, with tools to manage stress better and find a healthier balance in your life.
This article contains:
Recognising Your Stress Triggers
If you’re not sure what’s causing your stress, keep a diary and make a note of stressful episodes for two-to-four weeks. Then review it to spot the triggers.
Things you might want to write down include:
- the date, time and place of a stressful episode
- what you were doing
- a stress rating
You can use the diary to:
- work out what triggers your stress
- work out how you operate under pressure
- develop better coping mechanisms
Doctors sometimes recommend keeping a stress diary to help them diagnose stress.
You Feel Like Gambling
Gambling can take a number of forms, and it doesn’t just mean hitting the casino. It might include things like scratch-off or lottery tickets, and some studies have found that for those who are prone to gambling , stress can make those urges worse.
According to Know the Odds, a national non-profit dedicated to helping spread awareness about problem gambling, stress can be a major trigger in turning back to old habits. Gambling can present a way to destress, and Recovery Ranch, a Tennessee-based treatment facility for addiction, took a look at just what kind of impact stress had on gambling habits. The study took 347 volunteers and asked them about things like stress levels and the methods used to manage their emotions. They found those who reported high levels of stress also connected the use of electronic gambling machines with feelings of avoidance and used it as a coping strategy, and while the correlation between gambling and stress isn’t entirely understood, it does suggest those who are prone to gambling might be even more likely to do so when they’re highly stressed.
Recommended Reading: How To Tell If Your Stressed
How To Reduce Your Cortisol Levels
If your cortisol levels are high, lowering them will depend on the underlying cause. If its because of issues with your pituitary gland, adrenal glands, or medication youre taking youll need to work with your GP or health professional to lower them. If its because of chronic stress, there are lots of lifestyle changes you can make to lower your stress levels:
- enjoy yourself do something you love every day, like dancing or listening to music to improve your mood
- practice mindfulness for example, daily meditation or yoga
- connect with your friends, family, and even your pet a strong social support system is important for your mental health
- make sleep a priority do your best to get 7 hours of sleep every night
- break a sweat aim for at least 75 vigorous minutes of activity or 150 minutes moderate aerobic activity each week.
- eat a healthy diet aim for a lot of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and oily fish
- try a supplement omega-3, vitamin B-complex, magnesium, L-theanine, lemon balm, valerian root, and ashwagandha are linked to lower cortisol levels
Recommended listening for you
Or You’re Always Tired
Stress can take a toll on your energy levels, especially if you haven’t been getting enough sleep. In some cases, fatigue from stress can become so extreme that it develops into what’s known as chronic fatigue syndrome.
People with chronic fatigue syndrome aren’t able to improve their symptoms through rest and find it difficult to work and take part in a social activities due to their tiredness. Researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact causes of chronic fatigue syndrome, but it’s possible that stress can trigger the condition due to high inflammation in the body.
Also Check: What To Do If You Are Really Stressed
Hives Or Rash As A Sign Of High
If youve never had allergies to anything and suddenly notice that youre covered with red welts or a rash, it may be due to high-stress levels.
According to a publication by The American Institute of Stress, when your body experiences this disorder, the immune system tends to become imbalanced and the body initiates the release of the chemical known as histamine. This causes hives.
Early Warning Signs Of Stress
My own stress level fluctuates with the diversity of demands placed on me at different times. I am active in my husbands career, I go to school, I am raising two great children, I work part-time at my own career and I am involved in my childrens schools and at church.
My early warning signs of stress include being impatient with my children, being critical of my husband, and letting chores pile-up at home . When I see these things starting to happen, its time to take account of my schedule and make sure my timetable reflects my priorities. Sometimes I have to cut back and take care of my responsibilities at home. Sometimes it means I have to increase my satisfiers.
To get to know yourself better, answer the following questions on Personal Early Warning Signs of Stress. This way, you will be able to recognize the things you need to pay attention to in order to manage your stress in a helpful way.
- What are your personal early warning signs that tell you that your stress level is getting higher than youd like it to be?
- When you see these signs adding up, what do you do for yourself to reduce your stress level?
Read Also: Does Stress Cause Stomach Pain
Here Are Six Warning Signs And How To Control Your Levels Of Stress:
1. Panic Attacks
A sensation of feeling totally and utterly out of control of your entire body . Breathing exercises are very important when it comes to ease a panic attack. If its possible, go somewhere quiet and where you are alone, place a hand on your chest and one on your heart and breath deeply in and out of the nose.
This type of breathing is, in fact, a yogic breathing method but it works wonders for people suffering from a panic attack.
2. Racing Thoughts
These cause us to lose focus on the task at hand. Whether you are at work or simply at home cooking or having a conversation, racing thoughts can totally disrupt our mind. A great way to stop this is to move away from any electronic, take a pen and paper and make a list of five things youd like to accomplish in that day.
It may be work or home related, but by breaking a big task down into smaller chunks it makes us feel like we are in control and the project is manageable.
3. Muscle Tightness
Tightening our muscles at the thought of a stressful event can cause us to put pressure on our muscles and joint which can be painful. Another yogic exercise is to clench all the muscles for one breath in and then release them on the exhale.
This should be repeated for at least ten breaths. Another exercise is to inhale and clench one part of your body for five seconds and then release the breath. It will help to relax the muscles.
4. Stomach aches
To ease your digestive system, try a tea containing ginger or peppermint.
What Are The Signs Of Stress
How you might feel
You may behave differently if youre stressed. You may:
- withdraw from other people or snap at them
- be indecisive or inflexible
- have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep
- experience sexual problems
- smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs more than usual.
If the stress is long-lasting, you may notice your sleep and memory are affected, your eating habits change, or you feel less inclined to exercise.
Some research has also linked long-term stress to gastrointestinal conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or stomach ulcers, as well as conditions like cardiovascular disease.
Also Check: How To Counteract Stress Hormones
Your Hair Is Starting To Fall Out
If youre waking up with more than a few strands on your pillow, you may be suffering from alopecia areata. This is an autoimmune skin disease brought on when the bodys immune system attacks the hair follicles. It causes small round patches of hair loss on the scalp. Its not dangerous, but its likely to be associated with a severe stressor, like an assault or significant traumatic event in ones life, says Dr. Colgan. This disease is more likely to occur in young women or adolescent girls.
What to do: In most cases, this is typically a temporary condition and your hair will grow back once stress is minimized. But dont be afraid to talk to your doctor about whats going on, says Dr. Colgan. While your MD might recommend injectable scalp steroids to help with hair growth, its best to have an examination. The hair loss could possibly be a sign of a scalp fungal infection, a bacterial function or even a thyroid disorder.
You Keep Catching Colds
Stress has a way of wearing you down until all your body’s defenses are compromised. This leaves the proverbial door wide open for germs to stroll on in, which is why stressed out folks tend to catch colds more easily. As Dr. Carolyn Dean says in an email to Bustle, “Your resiliency, energy, endurance and your quality of life all depend on your adrenals to properly function.” Reduce your stress, and you should be better able to survive cold season.
You May Like: Why Do I Feel So Stressed For No Reason
Buy Yourself Time And Space
Allowing your brain time to adjust and “come down” from stressful activities helps your system to regulate in a healthy way. If you’ve been jumping from virtual meeting to lunch prep and immediately into a stressful family phone call, remember to add a little space. Pause before answering your phone, give yourself a five-minute breather between work and family time, set an alarm to remind you to stretch a few times a day, and find ways to delegate some tasks. Each little bit helps.
Questions To Ask Yourself
Whos in my support network? Everyone should have people in their life who are positive influences, support providers, and role models for healthy living. They can be friends, family members, mentors, spiritual leaders, colleagues, and mental health professionals.
What activities do I enjoy? Your work might be enjoyable, but everyone needs hobbies that arent about competition or personal accomplishment. What helps ease your worries and makes you more mindful about your body? These activities might include reading, dancing, gardening, board games, crafts, etc.
What are my sleep habits? If youre getting roughly 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, youll be able to think more clearly, boost your immune system, and concentrate better on work and relationships. A simple step such as turning off screens an hour before bed can make a huge difference in your sleep quality.
Am I saying no to unnecessary tasks? Ideally you should be able to pass on tasks that demand too much of you, arent your responsibility, or dont fall in line with your personal values and objectives. If youre not sure where to start, take a look at your schedule and to-do list, and see what can be delegated or removed completely.
Am I organized? Start to declutter your life. When you can manage tasks with an accurate schedule and prioritized to-do list, you reduce the unnecessary anxiety that can accompany a cluttered and confusing agenda.
You May Like: What Bible Verse Helps With Stress
What Is High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is blood pressure that is higher than normal. Your blood pressure changes throughout the day based on your activities. Having blood pressure measures consistently above normal may result in a diagnosis of high blood pressure .
Your health care team can diagnose high blood pressure and make treatment decisions by reviewing your systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels and comparing them to levels found in certain guidelines.
The guidelines used to diagnose high blood pressure may differ from health care professional to health care professional:
- Some health care professionals diagnose patients with high blood pressure if their blood pressure is consistently 140/90 mm Hg or higher.2 This limit is based on a guideline released in 2003, as seen in the table below.
- Other health care professionals diagnose patients with high blood pressure if their blood pressure is consistently 130/80 mm Hg or higher.1 This limit is based on a guideline released in 2017, as seen in the table below.
|systolic: 130 mm Hg or higherdiastolic: 80 mm Hg or higher|
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, talk with your health care team about your blood pressure levels and how these levels affect your treatment plan.
What Causes High Stress Levels
Anything that puts high demands or pressure on you can result in high stress levels, especially if you struggle to manage feelings of stress. Some common stressors that can lead to high levels of stress include high-pressure jobs, financial difficulties, taking on too much, conflicts at work or home, and failure to take time to relax.
Read Also: Can You Get Physically Sick From Stress
How To Solve Problems
Once you have identified the problems that are leading to stress in your life, this structured problem-solving exercise can help you to find solutions.
This technique has been adapted from Beyond Blue.
You Look A Little Worn Out
I think we can all agree everyone looks better when they’re relaxed. So, of course, the opposite is true, too. If you’ve been hella stressed, it can start to show up on your face in the form of haggardness and wrinkles. This is due to increased inflammation and free radical production, Schreiber tells me, which “exacerbate the aging process.”
You May Like: How To Reduce Stress And Anxiety Naturally
Should I See A Doctor
If you think you might have high cortisol, its important to see a doctor for a blood test. High cortisol causes common signs and symptoms that can be caused by many other diseases, so its important to confirm whats causing your symptoms.
If youre experiencing symptoms that may be caused by high cortisol levels, your doctor may recommend the following tests:
- Cortisol urine and blood tests. These tests measure the levels of cortisol in your blood and urine. The blood test uses a sample of blood drawn from your vein. A test called the 24-hours urinary free cortisol excretion test is used to check your urine. This entails collecting urine over a 24-hour period. Blood and urine samples are then analyzed in a laboratory for cortisol levels.
- Cortisol saliva test. This test is used to check for Cushing syndrome. A sample of saliva collected at night is analyzed to see if your cortisol levels are high. Cortisol levels rise and fall throughout the day and drop significantly at night in people without Cushing syndrome. High cortisol levels at night would indicate you may have Cushing syndrome.
- Imaging tests. CT scans or an MRI may be used to obtain images of your pituitary gland and adrenal glands to check for tumors or other abnormalities.
Unmanaged high cortisol levels can have serious consequences on your health. Left untreated, high cortisol can your risk of serious health conditions, including:
- cardiovascular disease
Signs Your Stress Levels Are Out Of Control
Stress is an unavoidable part of all our lives, and chances are, you know when you’re feeling the pressure. You know the signs, the ones that start right before a big presentation at work or in the moments before you’re going to be getting news that’s either incredibly good or incredibly bad. But what happens when that stress builds and builds, until we don’t get to step away? What happens when we find ourselves caught in a vicious cycle, with stress becoming such a part of everyday life that it starts to get almost unbearable?
There are a number of signs that your stress levels are just going out of control, and some of them are things that you might not even connect to stress.
Don’t Miss: How To Tell If You Are Stressed Out