Many of us have lives that are so jam-packed we rarely have time to breathe, resulting in stress levels going through the roof. Although stress is normal, and actually good for us in short bursts, prolonged stress is a serious time-bomb waiting to go off.
What is Stress?
Stress is a natural response to a situation that makes you feel threatened in some way, or when something happens that throws you off kilter. When your body perceives danger, it floods with hormones, causing a range of physical symptoms, which enables you to deal with the emergency your body believes it is facing. Stress can arise anywhere from minor niggles right through to life-changing experiences, and comes from both external or internal pressures, such as, bereavement or a need to be perfect.
What are some symptoms of stress?
The problem is that many people are simply unaware that they are stressed, especially if the symptoms become a part of everyday life. Stress affects people in different ways: some experience health issues, while others have problems dealing with emotions and feelings. Common signs that show you might be stressed include, moodiness, anger, depression, frequent colds, ulcers, digestive issues, negativity, nervousness, lack of concentration and sleep issues.
Although stress in itself is not a bad thing, in small, irregular spurts it can pump you up for an important meeting, or help you deal with fraught situations; however, prolonged bouts can be incredibly harmful, causing a wide-range of physical problems such as heart disease, mental health issues, eating disorders, skin and hair problems and gastrointestinal problems.
What is Stress Management?
With so many problems caused by stress, it is important to think of ways to manage it. However, this is rarely as simple as it sounds: first, you might not be aware that you are stressed, and even if you are, the stressors might seem insurmountable, especially if the cause of your stress is out of your hands, or involves negative thought processes you have unconsciously had for years.
So, the first step in managing your stress is recognizing that you are under pressure, and understanding what your stressors are; it may help to start a journal, allowing you to show what causes you the most stress, and logging daily experiences will begin to show a pattern.
4 Positive ways to Manage Your Stress
Many people revert to unhealthy methods of stress-busting, which offer temporary relief, but actually do very little to help long-term. These coping mechanisms might include substance abuse, smoking, taking your stress out on others, playing video games for hours, or mindlessly watching television.
The good news is that there are many simple, but effective, ways of dealing with stress. The major stumbling block is that stress is often created by habits and thought processes that are hard to break, and involves huge changes in the way you think and behave, which may take some getting used to. Although some stressors are unpreventable, such as moving home, the crucial part is effectively managing the stress any particular situation can evoke.
1. Control your environment
A good idea is to avoid any unnecessary triggers, and take control of your own environment, where possible. Stay away from people who drive you crazy, and accept that you are not superhuman; you can’t always be perfect, and most people won’t expect you to be. Try to be more assertive, and learn to say no! You can also prioritize tasks, and get rid of the ones that are not important
2. Think positively
You should also practice positive thinking, which is particularly difficult if you have been tough on yourself for a long time, or fallen into the habit of being pessimistic. Look for the good in everything that happens, and not feeling as though the universe is conspiring against you at every turn. This takes effort, but like anything, the more you practice, the more familiar and easier it becomes. It will undoubtedly help to talk about your feelings, so confide in a trusted loved one, or seek the help of a professional therapist.
Warning: A breathing technique that will definitely reduce your stress!
3. Do what makes you happy
One of the best ways to bust stress is to live in the moment, and do the things you enjoy most: play with your kids, go for a long walk, read a book, or listen to uplifting music.
4. Adopt a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle goes a long way to reduce stress, so ditch the junk, caffeine and sugar and go for fresh, home cooked food. Avoid alcohol and drugs, and get plenty of sleep, as tiredness will only exacerbate the emotions that evoke stress.
Lastly, exercise is not only good for whipping you into shape physically, but it also the perfect stress-buster.
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