What To Do When You Are Really Stressed Out
I hope you are enjoying the start of your summer! This months newsletter is dedicated to what to do in the moment when you are really stressed out. I have written previously about holding your center when things are falling apart or where you are having a major life stressor. .
Acute stress such as worrying about deadlines, being late, performance anxiety, or dealing with frustrating customer service, can unfortunately be very harmful, and therefore is critical for you to interrupt and halt the stress response and ideally prevent it from occurring.
I want to point out that all stress is not bad, as we need some positive stress to energize and motivate us, and increase our focus and performance. This is called EUSTRESS.
We also need the stress response in emergent situations.
You see, when you get stressed, your body pumps out adrenaline , and cortisol, hormones that work to get your body and mind ready to fight or flee. Your heart rate increases to pump blood around the body, your pupils dilate so you can see better, your respirations get faster and shallower, blood is directed away from the stomach and sexual organs to the large muscles of the arms and legs, so you are ready for action.
But many of us, including myself, have gotten aggravated and stressed, out of proportion to situations that are not life threatening. We catastrophize. This excessive stress reaction can damage our minds and bodies.
For these Acute Stressful Situations, I recommend the following:
Tip One Belly Breath While Counting Back From 100
So, the first tip is one I use when my anxietys really bad, Im spiralling into panic and you get that thing where you cant quite breathe.
My boyfriend actually taught me this trick. I dont know where he found it but one day when I was feeling really stressed he did some Googling and found this, and honestly it works like a charm.
Plus, its really, really easy.
All you have to do is just count back from 100 and do a nice deep breath right down into your belly on each count.
Naturally when we breathe we want to puff out our chest, but that actually signals to our body that things are a little stressful because when you move into a stressed state you breathe very much only into the top of lungs so you can breathe in and out quickly.
But when youre actually calm and very relaxed you naturally do diaphragmatic breathing which is just breathing deep into your belly so your belly sticks out when you breath in, not your chest. That sends a trigger to your body that everythings okay and that we dont need to be in a stressed state right now.
Then combining that breathing by counting down backwards from 100 is really good because it focuses your mind on something that isnt the stressor at the time and because counting down from 100 is not difficult, but its also not so easy you can do it without thinking so it forces you to focus on something none stressful.
Reasons Why You Could Be Stressed About Nothing
The first three points are likely causing you to feel overwhelmed at times . The latter two are the probable results and are signs that the demands on you outstrip your resources.
And, lets face it, on top of everything else that could befall you in life, youre probably now also have to cope with the fall-out from the pandemic. Covid lockdowns, quarantines and/or closures with all their financial, social consequences are, of course, super-stressful with an inevitable impact on our mental health.
Then there are the less obvious things that contribute to you feeling stressed for no reason.
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At the Benson-Henry Institute, Dossett teaches her patients evidenced-based mind-body skills to reduce anxiety, ranging from mindfulness meditation , yoga, and breathing. Getting social support is also crucial theres nothing like calling a sympathetic friend who can talk you down off the ledge, Dosset says.
Even squeezing a stress ball or playing with your childs fidget spinner can make you feel good, reduce anxiety, or at least momentarily distract you from what stresses you.
When were feeling stressed out, its natural to want to withdraw from life, but a more beneficial way of dealing with it is to use coping skills and tools that work for you, says Gupta, whether that’s problem-solving or focusing on your breathing. Once you have these skills under your belt, youll be able to pull through the next stressful situation more easily.
Wait Where Did You Put Your Phone/keys/brain
Here’s the funny thing: A tiny jolt of stress in some situations can make your mind do totally amazing, somewhat super-human things . But when every project, paper, practice, etc., etc., etc. is weighing on you to the point where you just feel stuck? Your memory goes fuzzy, your focus becomes non-existent, and your ability to actually listen gets squashed. It’s like stress hijacks your brain.
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Talk It Out With A Friend
When youre feeling stressed, take a break to call a friend and talk about your problems. Good relationships with friends and loved ones are important to any healthy lifestyle.
Theyre especially important when youre under a lot of stress. A reassuring voice, even for a minute, can put everything in perspective.
Talk To A Good Friend Who Will Listen Without Judgment
Initially, during stress, ISTPs will just want to be alone as much as possible. However, as stress subsides, they may feel better talking about it with someone they trust who can remain calm and rational. They absolutely do not want to be asked how they feel or have to answer a lot of questions. The friend can help by affirming that their response is okay and just listening and forgiving out-of-character behavior.
ISTPs are some of the most quick-thinking, quick-witted individuals you will ever meet. They are compelled to understand how things work, how to fix things, and how to apply practical solutions to complex problems. They are known for their adventurous spirit, their fairness, and their concise, direct approach to life. ISTPs have low stress compared to most other types, however, they are the type second most likely to report heart disease or hypertension. They have a habit of holding stress in their bodies and so managing stress and finding healthy outlets is imperative.
Be yourself. Follow your instincts. Success depends, at least in part, on the ability to carry it off. Donald Rumsfeld, an ISTP
What Are Your Thoughts?
Did you enjoy this article? Do you have any thoughts or insights to add? Let us know in the comments!
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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.
Stop Overloading Your Schedule
When we are too busy, even if the schedule is filled with exciting things, we can feel more stressed, simply from a lack of downtime. If the schedule is cluttered with stressful or unnecessary activities, it becomes even more draining. Learning to say no to demands on your time and cutting out the things in your life that stress you are great strategies for cultivating inner peace.
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How To Help Someone With Stress
First up, let them know that youve noticed how stressed they are, and that youre worried that theyre not coping very well. Maybe they just need to vent, and knowing that they can talk about things with you might help. Talking stuff through may help them figure out whats bothering them. Here are some suggestions you could make.
Make things more manageable
Schedule time out
Its theyre super stressed out they might not be taking any time out for themselves. Theyll probably benefit from thinking about ways to relax.
Use positive coping strategies
Without even knowing it, people often adopt unproductive coping strategies, such as wishful thinking, self-blaming, excessive worrying, ignoring the problem, and keeping things to themselves. On the other hand, positive coping includes things like:
Tone down the stress factors
Sometimes people are just totally overloaded with work and activities. In these situations, it may be worth brainstorming what things they really have to do, and what things they can forget about or postpone.
You Experience Tightness And Tension In Your Muscles
Anyone else have a really tight and stiff back? When we are stressed, we tend to become really rigid and uptight rather than flexible and fluid.
What to do about it: Give your body some TLC! I love a deep tissue massage or acupuncture. If those arent possible options for you, try some stretching, yoga, or exercises to loosen things up.
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Finding The Right Words In A Stressful Situation
Stressful situations arent supposed to be easy. If youre trying to help a loved one work through their own anxious feelings, you have an opportunity to say the right thing. These messages above are a kind, thoughtful way to respond without increasing their stress.
Nobody likes to be told to stay calm or move on. No matter how simple the situation seems from the outside, feelings are valid in their own way. Be mindful of your own response and be a strong listener. As long as youre focusing on acknowledging their experience and feelings, youre making a positive step in the right direction.
What Causes Anxiety Twitching
Anxiety causes your nervous system to release neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that your body uses to send messages between neurons, or between neurons and muscles.
Some types of neurotransmitters will tell your muscles to move. When you have anxiety, neurotransmitters may be released even when theres no clear reason for them to be released. This is what can cause anxiety twitching.
Another reason anxiety can cause muscle twitching is because it can cause you to hyperventilate. Muscle twitching is one symptom of hyperventilation.
If your twitching happens long-term or interferes with your daily life, your doctor may be able to help. To diagnose your condition, theyll first take a medical history, which will include:
- questions about your symptoms
- when symptoms started
- details about the twitching
If youre also experiencing anxiety with the twitching, be sure to tell your doctor. That might be enough for them to diagnose you with twitching related to anxiety. However, they might still do tests to rule out other conditions.
These tests may include:
- blood tests to look for electrolyte problems or thyroid issues
- an electromyogram , which looks at how well your muscles work
- a CT scan or MRI of your brain or spine
- a nerve conduction test, to see if your nerves are working correctly
If you have anxiety and other potential causes of twitching can be ruled out, your doctor will likely be able to diagnose you with anxiety twitching.
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Understand The Roots Of Your Negativity And Take Action
What is it exactly that makes you feel negative? Whether its external or internal, there is always something you can do to improve your circumstances.
A friend of mine struggles with weight loss. She wouldnt call herself overweight, but she wants to shift a few pounds. However, she exercises only about once a month and indulges in sweets whenever shes had a bad day. She has a lot of bad days. Then she feels unhappy with her body, and that makes her day even worse. Her bad days? There wasnt a seat available on the train, she couldnt get tickets to her favorite bands concert, or there was a typhoonthings that she cant control, but she lets them control her.
Take back control of your narrative
Finding out what triggers your negativity or anxiety is the first step to destressing. When youre in a good mindset, things like not getting a seat on the train mean nothing. A question you need to ask yourself is did you have a bad day, or did you let one bad thing ruin your day?If you can answer that honestly, and keep reminding yourself that one event doesnt determine the course of your entire day , then you can begin to take control of your own negativity, and eventually turn it around.
Its time to change things for good
Finding out what triggers your negativity or anxiety is the first step to destressing.
Help Them Identify Their Triggers
Your independent observations of someone’s behaviour can help them identify patterns that they hadn’t noticed before.
This can be a sensitive topic, as it will mean drawing attention to negative thoughts or feelings, so remaining calm, objective and non-judgemental is important.
In the same way, you could also help someone identify situations and activities that help them to feel less stressed and more in control. For example getting outside for a walk, taking a relaxing bath or reading a book.
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Tip Six Do Something Cliched Calming And Relaxing
This calming tip is probably going to sound a bit weird, but do something that you traditionally think of as calming even if you dont actually enjoy it
So think of those classic articles in magazines, where its like, the 10 best ways to de-stress, and the contents is super cliched, like have a bubble bath, light a candle, paint your nails and those sorts of things.
I find, even though these things do feel really cliche, that they can be really helpful because we have programmed in our head that these are calming activities. For example, Im the first to admit I dont like a bath, Im a shower person, but if Im feeling stressed I will have a bath and it does relax me.
Because in my head that is a calming thing and so Im like subconsciously telling myself Im going to feel better when Ive had a bath, and I do!
For other people, it might be painting your nails, or having a hot cocoa, something like that.
Theres lots of different things that are considered calming in our society, so pick the thing that when you think of a calming activity immediately comes to mind and even if you dont actually love the activity, just do it, because its going to trigger something in your brain that says this is a calming activity and so you will be feeling a lot calmer when youve finished it
Like I said, its a bit weird, but it does work.
So then a really, really easy one is lighting a candle because we are all taught that lighting a candle is really helpful to de-stress.
Tip Seven Distract Yourself Or Be Present
WARNING: Dont do this tip if youre just going to be procrastinating
Do this tip if you genuinely need a rest or a break.
So, for example, on the weekends Im really conscious about not working unless I absolutely have to. But a lot of times I might still be feeling stressed about work, so I need to do something that allows me to take a break to unwind and switch off.
In these sorts of cases I really recommend you either distract yourself or be super duper present in the moment.
Now you wont necessarily know which one you need, especially at first, and sometimes I still get it wrong and I think I need to be distracted when actually I need to be present, and vice versa so you might need to test it out and see which one helps you feel best at different times.
Most of the time, and I think this is because Im so introverted, I need the distraction. Because for me, being present involves being with friends or family, thats how Im most present as Im not super great at being present on my own
So, if I need to be present, I know I need to schedule in some time to spend with friends and family and that really helps me stay present and allows me to switch off from all the things going on in my head.
Distracting-wise, I find I need to go to a different world and not be in my life and the easiest way to do that is read a book, watch a TV series or watch a movie.
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Youre Experiencing Headaches Or Stomach Aches
Headaches and digestive issues are commonly related to stress, and theres actually a lot of science behind this! When we get really stressed, our bodies can perceive that as danger and activate our fight or flight response. This response produces adrenaline, causes our heart race, and our bodies to shake. It can even slow down our digestion and restrict our blood vessels. As a result, we get headaches, stomach aches, and end up feeling exhausted.
What to do about it: Practicing mindfulness has really helped me relax before I get to the point of headaches and stomach aches. Check out: What is Mindfulness +7 Easy Ways to Practice it Daily