As we recognize Stress Awareness Month throughout April, we want to use this time to discuss how stress affects our mental and physical health and provide some helpful methods to manage daily and chronic stress. Since everybody comes from different experiences and opinions, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to stress prevention. With the help of our list and trial-and-error, see what methods of stress management work best for you!
What is Stress?
We all have felt a stress reaction at some point in our lives. It’s the feeling we get when we are simply overwhelmed by all the obstacles and challenges in front of us. The reaction we experience in response to stress is known as the “fight or flight” (or sometimes freeze) response and is a natural survival tool inside all of us. In many ways, this reaction is vital to our very survival as the response releases hormones and chemicals in our brain that help us to react quickly to dangerous situations.
However, problems arise due to our brain's inability to filter out true physical danger from perceived danger, like the stress one may feel when they have a very important deadline to meet. And because the response is being triggered during an inappropriate time, we experience the negative outcomes that sometimes hinder our ability to accomplish our goals.
Results of Stress
- Inability to concentrate or “Brain Fog”
- Difficulty making decisions and/or lack of judgement
- Difficulty with memory
- Inability to complete tasks
- Depression and Anxiety
- Irritability and/or mood swings
- Frustration and/or Anger
- Decrease in motivation
- Isolation and withdrawal from others
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol to cope
- Physical symptoms such as chest pain, aches and pain with no known cause, difficulty breathing, and/or high blood pressure
- Chronic stress can even lower our immune system and make us more susceptible to illness
How to Manage Stress
When we notice that our average daily stress is producing any of these symptoms, it’s time to take action. According to the American Institute of Stress, 77% of Americans regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Making self care a daily priority goes a long way in reducing the negative impact of stress. To bring your stress down to a more manageable level, try the following:
When you are feeling overwhelmed with everything on your plate, lists can be a helpful way to get your thoughts in order and help you regain your focus. Organizing your list by importance and checking off as you go helps to regain motivation and a sense of control. Another tip is practicing the "5 minute rule." If you can finish the task in under 5 minutes, do it now rather than leaving it for later. Your future self will thank you!
Eat Balanced Meals
When we are stressed, many of us reach for the junk food while others neglect to eat entirely. Taking time to eat a healthy meal is a great way to reset your mind and de-stress. Practicing ‘mindful’ eating, that is maintaining your focus on solely the present moment, is one way to take this approach to stress reduction to a new level. Try this mindfulness activity found here: Mindful Eating
Build A Support Network
Make sure you are taking time to connect with those you care about most. Social support is an essential stress management tool. During periods of stress, it is important to feel that we are not alone. The social support network you develop does not need to solve the problems that are causing you stress. Simply knowing that someone else can relate to what you are going through goes a long way.
If you try all of these things and still find your stress level to be unmanageable, it may be time to seek out the help of a professional. A therapist can help you identify ways to reduce your stress that are individualized to you and can provide you with new tools and strategies for stress management. Our team of dedicated therapists are available to meet with you to discuss your concerns and determine a plan of action for managing your stress. To learn more, call our toll-free number at 833-444-NEST (6378) or click the button below to request an appointment.