Tip : Identify The Sources Of Stress In Your Life
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isnt as straightforward as it sounds. While its easy to identify major stressors such as changing jobs, moving, or going through a divorce, pinpointing the sources of chronic stress can be more complicated. Its all too easy to overlook how your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contribute to your everyday stress levels.
Sure, you may know that youre constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe its your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing the stress.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
- Do you explain away stress as temporary even though you cant remember the last time you took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life or as a part of your personality ?
- Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
Start a stress journal
A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal or use a stress tracker on your phone. Keeping a daily log will enable you to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
What Causes Emotional Stress
Whatever type of stress youre dealing with, the only way you can effectively control it is by first determining the root cause. Identifying the root cause of your stress is the first obstacle that needs to be overcome when dealing with emotional stress. Some of the most common causes are interpersonal relationships. Emotional stress brought about by a relationship creates strong internal emotional feelings in its victims and has a severe impact on their lives. While a happy and healthy relationship keeps everyone happy and hopeful, dysfunctional relationships can wreak havoc on the emotions of those involved.
Apart from personal relationships, things like workplace tension, financial problems, and career issues can also contribute to emotional stress.
Ways To Cope With Emotional Stress
Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.
Emotional stress can be particularly painful and be challenging to deal with. It can take more of a toll that many other forms of stress. Part of the reason is that thinking about a solution, or discussing solutions with a good friendcoping behaviors that are often useful and effective in solving problemscan easily deteriorate into rumination and co-rumination, which are not so useful and effective.
In fact, rumination can exacerbate your stress levels, so it helps to have healthy strategies for coping with emotional stress as well as redirecting yourself away from rumination and avoidance coping and more toward emotionally proactive approaches to stress management.
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Simple Ways To Relieve Stress And Anxiety
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Stress and anxiety are common experiences for most people. In fact, 70% of adults in the United States say they feel stress or anxiety daily.
Here are 16 simple ways to relieve stress and anxiety.
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress.
It might seem contradictory, but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can relieve mental stress.
The benefits are strongest when you exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety than those who dont exercise .
There are a few reasons behind this:
- Stress hormones: Exercise lowers your bodys stress hormones such as cortisol in the long run. It also helps release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers.
- Sleep: Exercise can also improve your sleep quality, which can be negatively affected by stress and anxiety.
- Confidence: When you exercise regularly, you may feel more competent and confident in your body, which in turn promotes mental wellbeing.
- Try to find an exercise routine or activity you enjoy, such as walking, dancing, rock climbing or yoga.
Activities such as walking or jogging that involve repetitive movements of large muscle groups can be particularly stress relieving.
Emotional Exhaustion And Burnout
Psychologists first began using the term burnout in the 1970s to describe the effects of severe stress on helping professionals, such as doctors and nurses.
Today, people use burnout to describe the results of chronic stress on anyone. Even so, no clear definition of burnout exists.
According to the United States National Library of Medicine , emotional exhaustion is one of the symptoms of burnout. The other two are:
- Alienation from work activities. Those with burnout become increasingly more stressed about their work. They may feel less committed to their organization, and they may distance themselves emotionally from colleagues.
- Reduced performance. Burnout causes cynicism and feelings of negativity about work-related tasks. Coupled with emotional exhaustion, this leads those with burnout to miss deadlines and otherwise perform poorly at work.
To reduce emotional exhaustion and burnout, people typically need to make lifestyle changes. In some cases, they may require medications or therapy. Treatments and tips to aid recovery include:
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Get Enough Quality Sleep
After experiencing a traumatic event, you may find it difficult to sleep. Worries and fears may keep you up at night or disturbing dreams may trouble you. Since a lack of sleep places considerable stress on your mind and bodyand makes it more difficult to maintain your emotional balancegetting quality rest after a disaster is essential.
The following strategies can help improve your sleep:
- Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening and limit alcohol intake as it disrupts sleep.
- Do something relaxing before bed, like listening to soothing music, reading a book, or meditating.
- Make your bedroom as quiet, dark, and soothing as possible.
- Get regular exercisebut not too close to bedtime.
Tip : Practice The 4 As Of Stress Management
While stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors arise at predictable times: your commute to work, a meeting with your boss, or family gatherings, for example. When handling such predictable stressors, you can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, its helpful to think of the four As: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
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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.
What Are The Warning Signs And Symptoms Of Emotional Stress
Symptoms of emotional stress can be both physical, mental and behavioral.
Physical symptoms include:
- Heaviness in your chest, increased heart rate or chest pain.
- Shoulder, neck or back pain general body aches and pains.
- Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw.
- Shortness of breath.
- Losing or gaining weight changes in your eating habits.
- Sleeping more or less than usual.
- Gastrointestinal problems including upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation.
- Sexual difficulties.
Mental or behavioral symptoms include:
- Being more emotional than usual.
- Feeling overwhelmed or on edge.
- Trouble keeping track of things or remembering.
- Trouble making decisions, solving problems, concentrating, getting your work done.
- Using alcohol or drugs to relieve your emotional stress.
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Disadvantages Of Emotional Avoidance
Emotions serve important psychological and physical purposes. Your emotions provide you with information about yourself and what is happening around you. They communicate and inspire action. For example, fear tells you that you may be in danger sadness tells you that you may need some time to take care of yourself or seek help from others.
Although emotional avoidance temporarily suppresses difficult emotions, over time, the emotions you are trying to avoid may become harder to ignore. Your emotions may fight back to perform their functions.
If someone is determined to avoid feeling their emotions, they may eventually turn to more intense and unhealthy ways to avoid emotions, such as taking drugs. More effort is needed to stop them. Therefore, you may be left with very little of the important things in life .
In addition, using all your energy to avoid certain emotions may make it difficult to manage other experiences, such as frustration and irritation, and make you more likely to be nervous and angry.Research also showsAvoidance of coping can lead to long-term worries.
Mental Health: Keeping Your Emotional Health
Emotional health is an important part of overall health. People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Theyre able to cope with lifes challenges. They can keep problems in perspective and bounce back from setbacks. They feel good about themselves and have good relationships.
Being emotionally healthy doesnt mean youre happy all the time. It means youre aware of your emotions. You can deal with them, whether theyre positive or negative. Emotionally healthy people still feel stress, anger, and sadness. But they know how to manage their negative feelings. They can tell when a problem is more than they can handle on their own. They also know when to seek help from their doctor.
Research shows that emotional health is a skill. There are steps you can take to improve your emotional health and be happier.
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Spend Time With Friends And Family
Social support from friends and family can help you get through stressful times.
Being part of a friend network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help you in tough times.
One study found that for women in particular, spending time with friends and children helps release oxytocin, a natural stress reliever. This effect is called tend and befriend, and is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response .
Keep in mind that both men and women benefit from friendship.
Another study found that men and women with the fewest social connections were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety .
Having strong social ties may help you get through stressful times and lower your risk of anxiety.
Its hard to feel anxious when youre laughing. Its good for your health, and there are a few ways it may help relieve stress:
- Relieving your stress response.
- Relieving tension by relaxing your muscles.
In the long term, laughter can also help improve your immune system and mood.
A study among people with cancer found that people in the laughter intervention group experienced more stress relief than those who were simply distracted (
Try watching a funny TV show or hanging out with friends who make you laugh.
Find the humor in everyday life, spend time with funny friends or watch a comedy show to help relieve stress.
Not all stressors are within your control, but some are.
One way to do this may be to say no more often.
Smoking Drinking And Drug Use And Stress
You might find that you smoke, drink alcohol or use recreational drugs to reduce stress. However, this often makes problems worse.28
Research shows that smoking may increase feelings of anxiety.29 Nicotine creates an immediate, temporary, sense of relaxation, which can then lead to withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Similarly, you may use alcohol as a means to manage and cope with difficult feelings, and to temporarily reduce feelings of anxiety. However, alcohol may make existing mental health problems worse. It can make you feel more anxious and depressed in the long run.30 It is important to know the recommended limits31 and drink responsibly.
Prescription drugs, such as tranquillisers and sleeping tablets, which may have been prescribed for very good reasons, can also cause mental and physical health problems if used for long periods of time.32 Street drugs, such as cannabis or ecstasy, are usually taken for recreational purposes. For some people, problems start as their bodies get used to repeated use of the drug. This leads to the need for increased doses to maintain the same effect.33
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Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress
Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and eating can all be normal reactions to stress. Here are some healthy ways you can deal with stress:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Its good to be informed but hearing about the traumatic event constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.
- Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditateexternal icon.
- Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
- Continue with routine preventive measures as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible get a booster shot if you are age 18 or older.
How Can You Help Yourself
Stress is a natural reaction to many situations in life, such as work, family, relationships and money problems.
We mentioned earlier on that a moderate amount of stress can help us perform better in challenging situations,34 but too much or prolonged stress can lead to physical problems. This can include lower immunity levels,35 digestive and intestinal difficulties, e.g. irritable bowel syndrome ,36 or mental health problems such as depression.37 It is therefore important that we manage our stress and keep it at a healthy level to prevent long-term damage to our bodies and minds.
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What Are The Signs Youre Experiencing Emotional Stress
1. Sleep problems.
If youre struggling to sleep well if you cant fall asleep or if you keep waking up during the night, this could be a sign of emotional stress. If youre struggling to sleep well more often than twice a week and there are no physical problems, then that means youre probably dealing with psychological issues.
2. Big weight fluctuations.
Here were not talking about a few pounds over the course of a few weeks or months. Were talking more about serious swings which dont really make a great deal of sense, particularly as you arent changing how youre eating or exercising.
Similarly, do you find yourself constantly thinking about food or repulsed by it? Then that can also indicate emotional stress.
3. Unexplained physical symptoms.
Do you have physical pains or problems you cant explain through some kind of physical cause? Then its very possible that mental stress is responsible.
Some things to look for are headaches, rumbling stomachs, diarrhea, constipation and chronic pain. Of course, this list is not exhaustive. Other problems might just as easily be caused by emotional stress.
4. Temper problems.
Do you suddenly have a short fuse where normally that isnt a problem you struggle with? Do you find yourself blowing up for little to no reason? Then that could well be down to emotional stress. Its like the kettle thats close to boiling.
5. Compulsive and obsessive behavior.
7. Memory problems.
8. Avoiding social situations.
How Can I Help Myself
There are things that you can do to help reduce your symptoms of stress. This is also known as self-care. There isnt a set process for where you should start, or what you should do, everyone is different. You may need to try different things until you find what works for you.
If you dont know what is causing your stress, it might help to keep a stress diary for a few weeks. It may help you to identify things that you may be able to change.
You could write down when you feel stressed. You should include what happens just before or after you feel stressed.
It could also help you to identify things which can make you unwell. These things are known as triggers. Identifying your triggers can help you to have more control over your stress levels.
There is a template for a stress diary at the end of the factsheet, which you can download by clicking the link at the top of this page.
Get practical advice
You may be able to take steps to change the cause of your stress. There are lots of places you can get practical advice on different issues. An advice service may be a good place to start. They may be able to support you to solve an issue. For example, you may want advice on:
- money or
You can find details of different organisations that give practical advice in the Useful contacts section at the bottom of this page.
Manage your money
Money can cause many different issues such as poverty, debt and relationship problems.
Plan your time
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