I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.
Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
Stress is inevitable. People from all walks of life experience ‘stress’ or ‘tension’ in certain trying circumstances. Stress can be caused by any event or situation that poses a physical, mental or emotional challenge. Not all stress is bad; stress can pressurize you to perform better in an exam or a meeting, alarm the senses during an accident or altercation or even prompt you to act swiftly in a natural calamity. Negative stress can obstruct the general, healthy functioning of our bodies.
Science has proven time and again that stress can lead to a lot of mental and physical health issues. Physically there are no outright signs of stress; physiologically it causes a tensing of the nerves causing muscle aches. Prolonged exposure to stress can cause the body to remain in a ‘taut or tense’ state causing varying degrees of musculoskeletal pain. In addition, studies also suggest that beauty, hunger, and sleep are also compromised by stress.
That being said, responding to stress constructively can help reduce and manage the harmful effects of stress. But there are many things that we generally resort to which instead of managing stress, moves us towards a more stressful life. Please, stop these six habits in case you are feeling stressed in your life:
Six things you are doing wrong about managing stress
Alcohol, drugs or compulsive behaviors to reduce stress
It is easy to turn to this method and find stress relief and comfort in the numbness it can provide. However, stress only gets aggravated as your tolerance for substance abuse increases. Rampant alcohol consumption or drug abuse can only cause a momentary distraction from stress. All of these compulsive behaviors are however short-term diversions, not long-term fixes. Long term drug-abuse and alcoholism can permanently hamper the body’s neurological system.
Limited understanding of stress and not assessing its impact on you
The word stress is commonly used, but we often fail to understand that stress is a wide spectrum; it can be good stress, bad stress or something in between. Good stress can be a catalyst that pushes you to perform better at a test or presentation, bad stress is the one that paralyzes you and makes you go blank at the test/presentation. Understanding how the stress impacts you would help you manage it. Ask yourself these questions to find out if you’re stressed:
1. Am I worried about something? What is it? Why is it bothering me so much?
2. Am I having trouble sleeping? What am I losing sleep over?
3. Why am I so irritable off-late?
Not assessing if you are stressed or not and not cross-checking its symptoms on your physical and mental health
Identify the changes that creep in when you are feeling stressed out. It can be loss of appetite or an increase in appetite, trouble sleeping or feelings of frustration at things that usually wouldn’t frustrate you. Imagine a scale of 1 to 10, where would you place your stress? If you come up with a number under 5, you can try talking to a few friends, going to a social event or even watching movies or TV-shows to temporarily distract you from stress and seek short-term relief. If you come up with a number above 5, you should look for long term strategies of stress relief. One such solution is talking to a trained therapist/counselor about your stressors. Sometimes that’s one of the best forms of self-care. They can help you identify and manage your stress, or you could just vent and know that you have someone to support you.
Not understanding it’s about managing stress and not stressors
What causes stress is subjective. Each individual feels and manages stress differently. Doing a presentation might be stressful but presenting it in front of a crowd may not be stressful for you, on the other hand, your friend might feel more stressed out about presenting in front of the crowd than preparing the presentation. Learning to identify the ‘stress help’ you need is like learning a skill that would be applicable and forever helpful (no matter what the stressor is). As you age, the causes of stress may vary, but your ability to relieve stress will always come handy.
Accepting stress as a part of the lifestyle and not seeking help
It is not uncommon to hear our friends say ‘I am so stressed’ or ‘this is very stressful’. This is the most common cause of the mismanagement of stress. What we often fail to understand is, accepting stress as a part of the lifestyle leads to sidelining our problems and becoming a mere spectator of our own life. As the stress builds up, we find ourselves lost and helpless, unable to think what our next step would be.
Treating all stress the same
Stress varies from individual to individual. When you think of stress, you probably picture what your stressors are. While it can be work-related for you, it can be a relationship related for someone else. Since the root cause of stress can vary in the form of a task or a relationship, hence, the cure for these stressors must differ too.
Ten long-term stress management techniques
Leading a balanced healthy lifestyle. Long hours at work with little or no recreation leads to chronic stress and anxiety. We must try to find a balance and switch off from work when needed. In addition to regular exercise, other lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress are:
Eating a healthy diet
Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
Reduce caffeine and sugar
The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll not just feel more relaxed and you’ll also sleep better.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs
If you’re wondering how to relieve stress, believe us, this method will only yield results to the contrary. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head-on and with a clear mind.
Get enough sleep.
Adequate sleep fuels your mind and nourishes your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, ensure that you have at least a half an hour of no screen time before going to bed. At this time before bedtime, you could read, practice your hobby, listen to music or take up any activity that relaxes you.
Trying to fit workouts into your schedule may stress you out, but the act of exercising on a regular basis provides you with a steady stream of happiness-boosting endorphins. Choose a workout that includes added tension release. There are many deep breathing exercises, mindful breathing, and stretches that might be very helpful. These exercises are available on the Wysa app for free, try them.
Most of us feel as though our lives are too busy for hobbies, games, or extra fun. But building time for leisure into your schedule could be key to helping you feel your best. And when you feel better, you’ll perform better, which means leisure time would make your work time more efficient.
Stay in touch with family & friends
There is nothing more calming than spending quality time with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. Science states that a face-to-face interaction triggers a cascade of hormones that counteracts the body’s defensive “fight-or-flight” response. It’s nature’s natural stress reliever. Be sure to make plans with friends and family to meet and catch up regularly. Sometimes, you might not have your best friend or family close by, but by building and maintaining a support system that you can lean on, you can improve your resilience to life’s stressors.
Manage time better
When you are stressed thin and running behind, it is hard to stay calm and focused. With less time, you would be tempted to avoid or cut back on all the healthy things you should be doing to keep stress in check, like socializing and getting enough sleep. Here’s what you can do to manage your time better:
- Don’t over-commit yourself. Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. We often underestimate how long things take or expect too much of ourselves (which is more stress).
- Prioritize tasks. Make a list of tasks you have to do and tackle them in order of importance. High priority tasks first. If you have something particularly unpleasant or stressful to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant.
- Break tasks/goals into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
- Introspect: Use to-do notes to keep you on track and introspect the decisions you make and your relationships with people in your life. When it gets confusing, ask yourself ‘How important is it?’, ‘How much would this matter in the next few years’, ‘Is this person worth prioritizing?’, and so on.
Activities such as relaxation or wellness programs, which incorporate meditation, muscle relaxation and breathing exercises are a boon in our stressed-out world. Schedule regular times for these and other healthy and outdoor excursions.
Meditation & Mindfulness
Include Meditation in your daily routine. Meditation can go a long way in helping you stay in control of your thoughts and reigning in your emotions during stressful times. Try these free meditations on the Wysa app for a calm and happy life at work and home.
Seeking support from a mental health professional.
There might be certain circumstances that are beyond our individual scope. So if you feel like you’ve been feeling stressed out over a long period of time, it would be a good idea to seek support from a mental health professional, especially if you’re undergoing something as serious as a post-traumatic stress disorder. Therapists can provide you the much-needed platform for self-expression is a safe place and even suggest useful ways to channel your thoughts and work through your problems to relieve stress.
Stress is the body’s neurological response to a new or challenging circumstance. It incites a ‘fight or flight’ response in us to cue in our decision-making. Basically, stress can be thought of as any emotional or mental strain or tension caused by an incident or situation in life. All stress is not negative; we all need a certain amount of pressure or push to be productive. However, a prolonged period of stress can lead to a variety of health complications in the long run. A stressed-out state of mind can greatly influence our ability to function and to take reasonable, well thought out decisions.
Common signs of stress are insomnia, loss of appetite, mood swings mixed with bouts of anger. In some cases, the person may withdraw from social interactions and experience a lack of sexual desires.
Stress is caused by a variety of reasons ranging from mental, emotional and financial circumstances in an individual’s life. The death of a loved one, financial instability and/or breakdown of a marriage or long-term relationship can be considered the three leading causes of stress.
A stress test helps measure the amount of perceived stress an individual may be facing in their day to day life. It could also help identify triggers as well as coping mechanisms an individual may be resorting to coping with stress. You can use the Holmes & Rahe stress scale to measure how much stress is in your life and whether you’re at risk of becoming sick.
Stress manifests physically in the form of body aches, headaches, chest pain, irregular heartbeats, loss of energy and irritable or irregular bowel movements such as constipation and diarrhea.
Prolonged stress could lead to suicidal thoughts and may even lead to a stroke or heart attack.
The easiest way to stop overthinking is to realize that you cannot control everything and remove yourself from a situation that leads to overthinking. Set short term, easy to achieve goals, exercise regularly and develop a hobby that will help you unwind.
Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises are the best ways to relax your mind. Take a vacation that’s been on your list, spend time with your loved ones and avoid falling into a cycle of repetitive arguments.
Self-control is key. Make a conscious effort to distract your mind with activities that make you happy every time you notice you are stress eating. You could also take the help of your friends and family to ensure they steer you away from constant binging.