What Are The Signs Of Stress
When you’re under stress, you may feel:
Stress also affects your body. Physical signs of stress include:
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Upset stomach
- Weight gain or loss
- Tense muscles
Stress can also lead to a weakened immune system , which could make you more likely to get sick.
Appetite Changes And Weight Gain
Changes in appetite are common during times of stress.
When you feel stressed out, you may find yourself with no appetite at all or overeating without noticing.
One small 2006 study of 272 female college students found that 81 percent reported that they experienced changes in appetite when they were stressed out, with 62 percent stating they had an increase in appetite .
Changes in appetite may also cause fluctuations in weight during stressful periods. For example, a study involving 1,355 people in the United States found that stress was associated with weight gain in adults already living with extra weight .
A third study from 2017 found that individuals with higher cortisol and insulin levels and higher levels of chronic stress were more likely to gain weight in the future . However, the study was limited in the scope of research in that participants were predominantly white females.
While these studies show an association between stress and changes in appetite or weight, more studies are needed to understand other possible factors are involved and how stress impacts different people.
Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Years of research have found PMR helps reduce anxiety and calm breathing. Lie down and relax, and then tighten, hold and then release each muscle in your body, one at a time, starting with your toes and moving up to the crown of your head. Do this slowly and methodically, and dont forget the muscles of your face. It may be more relaxing to listen to someone else walk you through the exercise. Visit this link to find audio, video, and scripts that you can record and then playback to yourself.
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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.
Don’t Fuel Stress With Bad Food
They call it comfort food, but the thought of heading into a meeting as you curse yourself for inhaling a giant cheeseburger and fries is the very antithesis of comfortable. When it comes to food, go with a lighter option. And although it’s good to control your carbs, don’t eliminate them completely. “Carbohydrates cause the brain to release the anti-anxiety elixir serotonin,” says Mike Roussell, Ph.D., author of The Six Pillars of Nutrition. Roussell recommends combining whole grain, fiber-rich carbsbrown rice or beans, for examplewith lean protein like turkey, shrimp, or a tri-tip steak. “The protein helps stabilize your blood sugar, ensuring that you cruise through the rest of the day with ample energy.” Those aren’t the only foods with surprising medicinal properties stock your kitchen with these 20 Amazing Healing Foods!
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How To Release Stress: 13 Ways To Tackle Stress And Feel Better
Stress is something you may have gotten used to-a result of lifes demands and the need to keep soldiering on. Well, stress without relief can become distress, harming your life in irreversible ways. As such, its important to be well-educated on how to release stress.
From leading to problems such as early ageing, heart problems and mental health issues, stress is a silent killer that can reduce your productivity and general quality of life. Knowing how to release stress can drastically improve your life, perhaps even helping you drop a few kilograms and make you look younger!
That said, we know how difficult it can be to release stress. With modern-day commitments, not feeling stressed is a challenge in itself. Not to mention that its something that takes a fair bit of practice. Heres why you need to keep stress at bay, and how to do it.
The Effects Of Stress On Your Body
Stress can be normal, especially that it is already part of our daily lives. When you experience stress, a part of your brain, specifically the hypothalamus reacts, allowing the release of stress hormones. Stress hormones are the same hormones that make you sense the fight or flight response of your body.
When you are threatened, stressed, or having an intense emotion, you will feel that your heart is beating fast, as your heart rate increases. Your breath also becomes faster, your muscles start to shake, and for some, it leads to uncontrollable shedding of tears.
Chronic stress can affect your body, both in terms of your physical health and mental health. If left untreated or unmanaged, it may result in consistent irritability, anxiety disorder, depression or major depressive disorder, insomnia, headache, back pain, shoulder pain, diarrhea, constipation, stomachache, and nausea and vomiting.
For some, stress is diverted to overeating, substance abuse , as well as social withdrawal. It can even lead to certain illnesses and serious health conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, heartburn or acid reflux, erectile dysfunction for males, and irregular, heavier, or more painful menstruation for females.
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Don’t Max Out On Caffeine
Caffeine is great for getting over the hump, but consume too much and you could elevate your stress levels and the hormones associated with them. Instead of coffee, try tea. In a British study, people who drank four cups of black tea throughout the day experienced a 47 percent decrease in cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.
Stress May Make Your Emotions Harder To Control
You may be fairly patient by nature, but it still wont take much to make you lose your cool when stressed. According to neuroscientists, it takes only mild levels of stress to make emotions harder to control. Factors like fear and anxiety that youd otherwise have a good grip on can become harder to control even with mild stress.
In 2013, an experiment tested the ability of participants to control their emotions under a mild stress factor having their hands dipped in ice water. The simple action made it harder for participants to calm themselves down when concurrently shown pictures of snakes and spiders.
If you dont learn how to release stress, theres even a chance that you may develop an emotional disorder like depression, which can result from chronic, untreated stress. The other emotional effects of stress include the inability to control anger, which may inadvertently lead to strained relationships at work and at home.
As your mind becomes muddled with anxiety and other emotions, you may also experience problems with concentration and memory.
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Eat A Piece Of Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a tasty treat thats loaded with nutrients with stress relieving properties, helping to lower stress hormones. But be careful. Some dark chocolates arent as dark as you might think. Most run around 45 percent cocoa content, but youll want at least 70 percent cocoa content to get the most health benefits out of it.
What Happens To My Body When I Experience Stress
People react differently to stress. Some common symptoms of stress include sleeping problems, sweating or a change in appetite.6,7
Symptoms like these are triggered by a rush of stress hormones in your body which, when released, allow you to deal with pressures or threats. This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Hormones called adrenaline and noradrenaline raise your blood pressure, increase your heart rate and increase the rate at which you perspire. This prepares your body for an emergency response.8 These hormones can also reduce blood flow to your skin and reduce your stomach activity. Cortisol, another stress hormone, releases fat and sugar into your system to boost your energy.9
As a result, you may experience headaches, muscle tension, pain, nausea, indigestion and dizziness. You may also breathe more quickly, have palpitations or suffer from various aches and pains. In the long-term, you may be putting yourself at risk from heart attacks and stroke.10
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Different Stress Management Techniques & Strategies
These tips are thing we can all benefit from doing more of. The techniques are categorized into three groups:
Explore the below options and find what combination works best for keeping your stress levels under control.
Action-oriented approaches allow you to take action and change the stressful situation.
As Nelson & Hurrell said:
Stress is inevitable, distress is not
1. Be assertive
Clear and effective communication is the key to being assertive. When were assertive, we can ask for what we want or need, and also explain what is bothering us. The key is doing this in a fair and firm manner while still having empathy for others. Once you identify what you need to communicate, you can stand up for yourself and be proactive in altering the stressful situation.
You can read more about how to be assertive here.
2. Reduce the noise
Switching off all the technology, screen time, and constant stimuli can help us slow down. How often do you go offline? It is worth changing, for your own sake.
3. Manage your time
If we let them, our days will consume us. Before we know it, the months have become overwhelmingly busy. When we prioritize and organize our tasks, we create a less stressful and more enjoyable life.
Tip : Recognize When Youre Stressed
It might seem obvious that youd know when youre stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that weve forgotten what it feels like when our nervous systems are in balance: when were calm yet still alert and focused. If this is you, you can recognize when youre stressed by listening to your body. When youre tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When youre happy, you laugh easily. And when youre stressed, your body lets you know that, too. Get in the habit of paying attention to your bodys clues.
Observe your muscles and insides. Are your muscles tense or sore? Is your stomach tight, cramped, or aching? Are your hands or jaw clenched?
Observe your breath. Is your breathing shallow? Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest. Watch your hands rise and fall with each breath. Notice when you breathe fully or when you forget to breathe.
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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
Take A Closer Look At Your Stress
Invisible stress is real, and it can build up into chronic stress. Sometimes we dont notice it because its been there the whole time, like a freckle or mole. However, changing freckles or moles are something you want to take the time to check out, right? Stress is the same.
If you notice a change in your patience or find yourself more easily triggered by slight noises or simple mistakes, consider whether you need to take a break and calm your mind, or if theres something bigger at play. Chronic stress can increase your risk for other mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.
If these strategies arent giving you tools to cope, try seeking help from a professional.
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Find Your Pause Button
After experiencing times of great change, high demand, or significant loss, its essential to press pause and rest. Often creating time and space for rest means saying no to invitations and requests for help, at least temporarily, says Callahan. Consider spending quiet time daily: contemplation, reflection, and breathing fosters resilience and calm.
Talk Yourself Through It
Sometimes calling a friend is not an option. If this is the case, talking calmly to yourself can be the next best thing.
Dont worry about seeming crazy just tell yourself why youre stressed out, what you have to do to complete the task at hand, and most importantly, that everything will be okay.
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Helping Children And Youth Cope With Stress
Children and youth often struggle with how to cope with stress. Youth can be particularly overwhelmed when their stress is connected to a traumatic eventlike a natural disaster, family loss, school shootings, or community violence. Parents, caregivers, and educators can take steps to provide stability and support that help young people feel better.
Highly Effective Tips For Relieving Stress
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to stress relief, however. What works for one person might not work for another.
And what works for you at home might not be an option when you’re at work or in the community .
So it’s important to have a variety of stress relief tools at your disposal. Then, you’ll be able to pick a strategy that works best for your current circumstances.
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Tip : Make Quick Stress Relief A Habit
Its not easy to remember to use your senses in the middle of a minior or not so minocrisis. At first, it will feel easier to just give into pressure and tense up. But with time, calling upon your senses will become second nature. Think of the process like learning to drive or play golf. You dont master the skill in one lesson you have to practice until it becomes second nature. Eventually youll feel like youre forgetting something if you dont tune into your body during challenging times. Heres how to make it habit:
Start small. Instead of testing your quick stress relief tools on a source of major stress, start with a predictable low-level source of stress, like cooking dinner at the end of a long day or sitting down to pay bills.
Identify and target. Think of just one low-level stressor that you know will occur several times a week, such as commuting. Vow to target that stressor with quick stress relief every time. After a few weeks, target a second stressor and so on.
Test-drive sensory input. If you are practicing quick stress relief on your commute to work, bring a scented handkerchief with you one day, try music another day, and try a movement the next day. Keep experimenting until you find a clear winner.
Have fun with the process. If something doesnt work, dont force it. Move on until you find what works best for you. It should be pleasurable and noticeably calming.
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:
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