Stress can be a negative or positive event. For example, beginning a romantic relationship, starting a new job, and moving are all stressful events. There are a variety of types of stress, such as relationship stress, work stress, and environmental stress. Stress can be emotional or physical. What may be stressful for one person may not be stressful for another. Every person will react to stress differently. One person may be able to adapt successfully whereas others may develop long-term emotional difficulties. Stress tends to trigger the fight-flight-freeze response. However, most everyday stressors do not require fighting or fleeing.
Stress can influence the way we think, feel, and behave. It can make it difficult to attend to tasks, concentrate, or recall information. Stress may impact your mood which often leads to anxiety, irritability, nervousness, or sadness. The quality of our work and interactions with people can also suffer when experiencing stress. Sometimes, stress may cause people to experience sleep difficulties or experience changes in their eating and drinking behavior.
Stress can also make a person sick. There are a variety of direct physiological effects on the body, such as damage to the heart and the development of ulcers in the stomach. Stress can also have a direct cognitive and behavioral effect, such as memory loss and becoming easily distracted. Secondary effects of stress include exacerbating illness and delaying recovery.
Below is a list of some signs of stress:
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest Pain
- Change in sex drive
- Upset stomach
- Sleep problems
- Angry outbursts
- Social withdrawal
- Exercising less often
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Tobacco use
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Feeling overwhelmed
After acknowledging and recognizing signs of stress, there are several strategies that can be used to manage and to deal with stress.
Be proactive! Plan ahead and attempt to anticipate problems. Apply time management techniques in order to manage schedules and develop structure and routine. Plan self-care time in advance.
Express yourself! Whether it is through writing, journaling, singing, or dancing. Discover what form of self-expression helps you to express your emotions and help you to understand the emotions you may be experiencing.
Engage in social activities! Seek out friends and nurture your social relationships. Healthy relationships can provide support and provide a safe space to talk about stressors.
Exercise! Engaging in physical activities produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Endorphins can also help to improve the ability to sleep which can also help to reduce stress, reduce fatigue, and improve concentration.
Explore nature! Go for a hike or walk in a natural environment. If you are not able to go outside and explore nature, objects or pictures of nature can also have a calming effect.
Make time for hobbies! Set aside time to engage in activities that you enjoy, such as reading, doing an art project, doing puzzles, playing games, or playing a sport.
Take a break! Plan some downtime. Perhaps use this time to meditate, practice yoga, pray, or listen to your favorite music.
Use humor! Watch a funny television show or read a newspaper cartoon. Laughter can be a great form of short-term stress relief. It can lead to increased endorphins and aid in muscle relaxation.
Remember, stress management does not need to take a lot of time. Five to twenty minutes may be more than enough to help one to manage stress. If you’ve taken steps to control your stress but symptoms continue or if you’re not sure what is the cause of the symptoms, see a medical doctor or consider seeing a mental health provider. Mental health providers can help to identify sources of stress and provide new coping tools to manage the stress.
Additional Stress Management Strategies:
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: a technique that helps to relieve tension.
- Guided Imagery: a strategy that uses imagination and breathing strategies to promote relaxation.
- Deep / Belly Breathing: a technique that involves deep abdominal breathing that helps to release stress
- Mindfulness: a practice involving active, open attention on the present without judgement.