Wellness Module : Stress And Well
If your answer is YES, you are not alone.
Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Some people, though, say that they feel very stressed most of the time. In fact, 21% of Canadians aged 12 and older rated their life stress as quite a bit or extremely stressful. While stress isnt always bad and can even be helpful, too much stress can affect your well-being negatively.
Follow A Daily Routine
Coming up with a structured plan for each day with clear boundaries between your working and private life will give you a sense of control amid the uncertainty. Try to divide your day into small activities and make sure you build in time to do things you enjoy, from pursuing your hobbies or exercising to spending time with your children or pets. Moreover, set a daily routine for work: take regular breaks, leave your desk for lunch, and have a fixed time to turn off. Additionally, focus on getting enough sleep and regularly eating healthy meals.
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.
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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.
Natural Ways To Lower Your Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is a stress hormone the adrenal glands release. It helps your body deal with stressful situations, as your brain triggers its release through the sympathetic nervous system the fight or flight system in response to many different kinds of stress .
While the short-term release of cortisol can help you run quickly from danger, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can hurt you more than it helps .
Over time, this can lead to an array of health issues such as weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, insomnia or difficulty sleeping, mood irregularities, and low energy levels (
This article discusses 11 ways to help naturally lower your cortisol levels.
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Build Strong Positive Relationships With People Who Make You Feel Goodand Avoid Those Who Dont
Research suggests that stress builds up over time, through multiple small interactions with others. By themselves, few single incidents are intrinsically stressful. However, put them together, and the story is very different.
It is hard to avoid these micro-stressors, because they are too frequent and too pervasive. However, there are ways to address them, and the most important is to focus on your relationships with others. Research suggests that the two most important things you can do are to build strong relationships and connections with people who make you feel good, and avoid those who dont.
There is more about this in our page on Micro-Stressors.
Best Ways To Manage Stress
Meditation can trigger the antidote to stress, called the relaxation response.
Goal setting and relaxation techniques reduce stress and ease the physical and emotional burdenit can take.
Stressful experiences come in many forms, such as a demanding job, a chronic disease, or an argument with a loved one. But all types of stressorseven stress from positive experiences,such as planning a partycan result in the same physical and emotional burden on health, especially when you’re an older adult. “As we age, our immune systems are less efficient, and adding stress to that can lead to disease progression or the onset of disease,” says Dr. Ann Webster, a health psychologist at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
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What Are Some Strategies To Reduce Stress
It may not be possible to remove the stress from your life, but managing your stress may help you to get things done.
Below are some ideas for managing stress.
- Take charge deal with unhelpful sources of stress before they build up and become a bigger problem.
- Make choices look at areas in your life where you could manage your situation better or change the way you respond.
- If youre already feeling stressed, consider postponing major changes like changing jobs or moving house.
- Sort out any personal conflicts or relationship problems by communicating honestly and seeking counselling.
- Spend time doing things you enjoy.
- Try to avoid long hours at work. Learn to say no.
- Try to avoid smoking, alcohol and caffeine.
If youre feeling stressed, its a good idea to have a general health check with your doctor. You can talk to your doctor about ways to help you bounce back and cope with stress.
Helpful Organisations For Money Worries
It is important if you are worried about your finances and debts that you do not try to deal with them alone. There is a lot of help and support available to you through organisations such as Step Change and Citizens Advice.
You should also talk to your GP or a trusted health professional if you are worried about how debt is affecting your mental and physical health.
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They Find Ways To Add Joy
Adding a few moments of laughter to a stressful day can be all it takes to handles stress well. Even in the midst of a crisis, being able to laugh at yourself for how you overreact or misjudge something is a way to shift from a negative mindset to a positive one. For example you might say, Well that was silly of me to forget my wallet, but hey, at least I noticed it before I was at the cash register with a full shopping cart.
What Is Emotional Stress
Emotional stress is not a clearly labelled phenomenon. Its a wide range of problems and can range all the way from having a few down days to a more chronic condition. Note, that if youre having a few down days you shouldnt immediately pull on the bell or go see your doctor.
Though we might strive to be happy all the time, thats not actually how were built. We cant always be happy and were going to have down periods and moments where we struggle. It doesnt matter if youre working as a translator, are an Arab Sheik or work on a farm, thats just how it is.
At the same time, if youre feeling youve been on edge for a long time now without really feeling youve been able to get your head above water, then it might be time to take action.
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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.
Focus On Just Two To Three Stressors At A Time
You cannot deal with everything or everyone in your life that makes you feel stressed. Instead, focus on just two or three main stressors at a time.
If you use a stress diary, or a tool like our quiz Whats Stressing You Out?, it is easy to identify the most common and/or most stressful situations in your life. You can then start to work out what you can do to resolve them.
Once you have sorted your top stressors, you can then move onto lesser stressors.
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Be Aware Of Negative And Judgmental Self
Are you staying late at the office and missing time with friends because your internal critic is telling you that if you dont get this project done, you are a lazy, underperforming blob of an employee? This type of self-talk is not productive or healthy.
You can overcome this by becoming aware of the story you are telling yourself and the judgment that accompanies it. This is the most important step by far. These stories and criticisms we tell ourselves that keep us working crazy hours and provoke toxic anxiety are the same cockamamie stories that prevent us from taking the time we need to take care of ourselves.
What Can Prolonged Stress Lead To
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.3 This means it is important to manage your stress and keep it at a healthy level to prevent long-term damage to your body and mind.
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Tips To Manage Stressful Situations
It might surprise you to learn that biological stress is a fairly recent discovery. It wasnt until the late 1950s that endocrinologist Hans Selye first identified and documented stress.
Symptoms of stress existed long before Selye, but his discoveries led to new research that has helped millions cope with stress. Weve compiled a list of the top 10 ways to relieve stress.
Identifying Symptoms Of Emotional Stress
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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.
Look After Yourself Physically
When you are physically fit and well, it is much easier to cope with stress.
When you become stressed, it is harder to motivate yourself to care about what you eat, or whether you exercise. However, not doing so can also make you more stressed. Get into good habits while your stress levels are fairly low, and you may find that they never go up again. These good habits include:
Taking regular exercise
Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body.
These are the fight or flight hormones that evolution has hard-wired into our brains and which are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat. However, stress in the modern age is rarely remedied by a fight or flight response. Physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolise the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state.
Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.
You can assess your levels of daytime sleepiness with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.
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How To Handle Stress
When dealing with stress, management is key. Keeping an eye on your stress level, and pushing it down when it becomes overwhelming, can lead to better health, productivity, and enjoyment of life.
Chronic stress keeps our fight-or-flight response always on. The hormonal changes this causes can lead to circulatory issues , heart attacks, or strokes. High levels of cortisol over long periods of time lead to issues with metabolism and energy management, i.e. it can make us eat more and fatten up.
Some of the most common signs that youre under a lot of stress include overeating or not eating, problems sleeping, rapid weight gain , irritability, trouble concentrating, a retreat from social activities or hobbies. Some harder-to-spot ones include higher levels of anxiety, random pains and aches, issues with digestion, with memory, a drop in libido and sexual enjoyment, even autoimmune diseases.
Wherever stress stems from in your life, keep in mind that our feelings are not an accurate representation of reality. Theyre a product of millions of years of evolution and biochemical tweaking whose sole purpose is to keep you from dying and if they have to ruin your mood to do so, they will. But you dont have to bear it alone, and you dont have to listen to it more than necessary. Take some time every day to relax, unwind, and take care of your mental health, no matter how hopeless things may seem. Its darkest at midnight, but thats also when things start getting brighter.
Make Time For Fun And Relaxation
It is important to include time for fun and relaxation in your schedule. These are important for helping you to feel good generally, and that in turn reduces stress, and keeps you healthy. Looking forward to doing things that you enjoy, and that give you pleasure, helps when you have to cope with less pleasant aspects of life. Whats more, laughter has huge positive benefits for both mental and physical health.
If you are working hard, and are conscientious, however, it can feel wrong to take time out to relax and have fun.
It is therefore important to remember that you and your health are important. You should not ignore your physical or mental health in favour of more urgent activities.
If you consciously put relaxing or fun activities into your diary, and think of this as a way to keep yourself healthy and able to work, you are likely to feel much more positive. This, in turn, will mean that you feel less guilty, and therefore stressed, about doing it.
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