How Can We Handle Stress In Healthy Ways
Stress serves an important purposeit enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties or increased physical health problems. A large body of research suggests that increased stress levels interfere with your ability to deal with physical illness. While no one can avoid all stress, you can work to handle it in healthy ways that increase your potential to recover.
There are several other methods you can use to relax or reduce stress, including:
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.
Stress And Your Appetite
Stress can have a huge impact on your eating habits. During acute stress , the stress response can shut down appetite. The fight-or-flight response is designed to suppress hunger you wont be effective in battle or run that fast if you are thinking about food. But chronic stress has the opposite effect. Repeated doses of cortisol in your body due to high stress can lead to an increase in appetite.
According to the Harvard Health Letter, gender can play a role in how you eat during times of stress. Some research suggests women are more likely overeat due to stress while men turn to alcohol or smoking.
And the reality is that food really can make you feel better during times of stress. So-called comfort food like chocolate cake and ice cream literally blunt the bodys response to chronic stress. The problem with continuing to self-medicate chronic stress with comfort foods is that it will lead to weight gain and poor health.
Just as you need to reframe your view of stress and exercise and meditate to give your body a break from stress, you can also adopt strategies to use food to help you better cope with stress.
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Healthy Ways To Handle Lifes Stressors
When stress becomes unmanageable, try these evidence-based tools to tackle it in healthy ways.
Healthy ways to handle lifes stressors.
Stressful experiences are a normal part of life, and the is a survival mechanism that primes us to respond to threats. Some stress is positive: Imagine standing in front of a crowd to give a speech and hitting it out of the park. Stressful? Certainly. But also challenging and satisfying.
But when a stressor is negative and cant be fought off or avoided such as layoffs at work or a loved ones medical crisis or when the experience of stress becomes , our biological responses to stress can impair our physical and mental health.
Fortunately, there are many evidence-based tools to help combat the negative effects of stress in healthy ways. They recommend that you:
Get Enough Sleepbut Not Too Much
The thought of hiding away under the covers sounds pretty great when there’s so much to deal with beyond your bedroom door, but sleeping too much isn’t the answer. Research shows that the more you sleep, the more tired you actually feel. Plus, studies that have shown an association between chronic oversleeping and diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, and even higher rates of death . Adding health problems to your already heavy load is only going to exacerbate your stress levels. That said, too little sleep can make stress worse, too. “When you are tired and depleted, things look worse and less manageable than when you’re rested,” Smith says. The sweet spot to aim for, per the National Sleep Foundation, is between seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night.
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Manage Your Time More Effectively
One of the biggest causes of stress is poor time management. Not only does it directly cause stress, it can also make it harder for you to assess situations with different perspectives and to stay healthy and well-rested, thus creating more stress. Manage stress in life and stress at work better by prioritizing what you need to do, saying no to additional obligations if you already have a full plate, and delegating when appropriate. You can also be more effective by breaking down large projects into smaller steps. This will make them more manageable and can help you stay encouraged by mentally noting what youve accomplished rather than what you didnt get to on your to-do list. You dont have to be a superhero.
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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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.
Americans Are Feeling Anxiousa Health Risk Especially For Older Adults Diy Strategies Can Help
Last summer an American Psychological Association survey found that our overall stress levels were going downpart of an encouraging nationwide trend.
But a follow-up survey in early January showed a troubling change, according to psychologist Vaile Wright, Ph.D., director of research and special projects at the APA. We saw the first statistically significant spike in stress in 10 years, she says.
Whether acute or chronic, stress can affect you physically, changing your hormone levels and activating your bodys inflammatory response.
Theres evidence that people under chronic stress are more susceptible to the common cold and flu, and are at greater risk of developing depression and coronary heart disease, says Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Under long-term stress, many of your bodys physical systems do not respond normally.
And though older adults usually report less stress than younger onesthanks to years of experience in developing coping strategiesage may make us more susceptible to the negative health effects of chronic stress.
Fortunately, evidence-backed strategies can help manage stress. Whether youre planning a budget or dealing with a sick relative, heres how to turn down the volume on tension the healthy way:
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Up Your Avoidance Of Caffeine Alcohol And Nicotine
We previously said that it was a good idea not to have too much caffeine, alcohol and nicotine as a way to avoid stress. If you are already feeling stressed, this becomes even more important. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and so will increase your level of stress rather than reduce it.
Alcohol is a depressant when taken in large quantities, but acts as a stimulant in smaller quantities. Using alcohol as a way to alleviate stress is therefore not ultimately helpful.
Swap caffeinated and alcoholic drinks for water, herbal teas, or diluted natural fruit juices and aim to keep yourself hydrated. This will enable your body to cope better with stress.
You should also aim to avoid or reduce your intake of refined sugars – they are contained in many manufactured foods and can cause energy crashes which may lead you to feel tired and irritable.
There is more about this in our page What are Carbohydrates?.
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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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
How Much Stress And Anxiety Is Too Much
The point at which worry and anxiety become unhealthy is when they immobilize us rather than inspire us to act.
Whether we’re worried about things in the future, or so stressed and anxious we can’t move forward, the stress takes a toll on our minds and bodies, and affects our health. Excessive or unmanaged anxiety can become unhealthy if it takes the form of an anxiety disorder, for example.
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How Not To Answer How Do You Handle Stress
Stress? Never experienced it.
As we said, an interviewer wants to hire someone they know will be reliable when things get tough but playing the emotionless robot card isnt going to win you any points.
Besides, everyone experiences stress, so saying you dont just means youre lying and nobody wants to hire a liar.
Stress just motivates me to work harder.
While this might seem like the right answer, its not. Hiring someone who is convinced they need to solve every problem themselves means they might not realize at some point that their problem is too big to handle alone.
A lone wolf employee might end up waiting too long to bring in additional help resulting in a problem that could have been solved much earlier and cheaper blowing up into something much bigger and much more expensive.
I remove myself from the situation, take time to look at it from all angles, and then attack whatever is causing me stress in the most efficient way.
Another sounds like it should be rightbut its not! answer.
In this case, youre telling the hiring manager that when things get toughyou leave. And yes, we know you said you come back after youve formulated your plan of attack, but stillwe cant get past the part where you walk away for an unknown amount of time.
Dude, I dont know about you, but I like to unwind by grabbing a beer and just feeling the mellow wash over me after work.
All were going to say istheres a thing called oversharing.
Learn To Recognise The Signs That You Are Becoming Stressed
There are a wide range of possible signs and symptoms that may be associated with stress. These include headaches, stomach upsets and indigestion, and sleep problems. Many people also find they become very emotional and have trouble regulating their emotions.
Unfortunately, most of these signs are fairly non-specific: that is, they may be associated with many different illnesses and conditions. It can therefore be hard to identify when your symptoms are the result of stress. You should always consult a doctor if these symptoms last any length of time.
It is a good idea to learn to recognise the signs that you are becoming stressed, so that you can take action early on.
There is more about this in our page on What is Stress?
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Simple Steps To Deal With Stress And Anxiety
Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.
Do you wonder if you may worry too much? And how much anxiety is officially “too much?” To answer these questions, you may need to deepen your understanding of stress and anxiety, and how they help and hurt you.
Quick Ways To Reduce Stress
Taking care of your long-term mental and physical health is an important part of stress management. However, there isnt always time to take a nap, hike a fourteener, or read a novel. Thus, here are 25 ways to reduce stress in five minutes or less. From eating chocolate to meditating, there is a quick stress-relieving tactic for everyone.
1. BreatheSlow, deep breaths can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Try pranayama breathing, a yogic method that involves breathing through one nostril at a time to relieve anxiety. The technique is supposed to work the same way as acupuncture, balancing the mind and body.
2. Listen to Music No matter what the song, sometimes belting out the lyrics to a favorite tune makes everything seem all right. If youre in a public place, just listening to music can be a quick fix for a bad mood. Classical music can be especially relaxing right before bedtime.
3. Take a Quick Walk When youre feeling overwhelmed or having trouble concentrating, go for a quick stroll around the block. Youll get the benefits of alone time, physical activity, and a few minutes to gather your thoughts.
4. Find the Sun If its a sunny day, head outside for an easy way to lift your spirits. Bright light can be an effective treatment for people who suffer from depression, and can even cheer up otherwise healthy people.
8. Rub Your Feet Over a Golf Ball You can get an impromptu, relaxing foot massage by rubbing your feet back and forth over a golf ball.
12. Be Alone
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How Can Work Stress Affect Well
Long-term exposure to work-related stressors like these can affect mental health. Research links burnout with symptoms of anxiety and depression. In some cases, this sets the stage for serious mental health problems. Indeed, one study shows younger people who routinely face heavy workloads and extreme time pressure on the job are more likely to experience major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
High levels of stress at work and outside of it can affect physical health, too. Repeated activation of the fight-or-flight response can disrupt bodily systems and increase susceptibility to disease. For example, repeated release of the stress hormone cortisol can disturb the immune system, and raise the likelihood of developing autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimers disease. Chronic stress can also affect health by interfering with healthy behaviors, such as exercise, balanced eating, and sleep.
Work stress can also harm companies or organizations. Burnout reduces job productivity and boosts absenteeism and job turnover, and also leads to conflict between coworkers, causing stress to spread within a workplace.