Modern-day living is full of stressors—both good and bad. For many though, stress is so common that it has become a way of life. While stress can help you perform under pressure or sharpen your concentration, too much can take a toll on your mind and body. Stress can sneak up on you; it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms to protect yourself against harmful effects.
So, in recognition of Stress Awareness Month, lets chat and chew about the causes of stress and ways you can manage it.
WHAT IS STRESS?
According to HelpGuide.org, “stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way.”(1) Your body defends against these dangers—real or imagined—in a “rapid, automatic process knows as the ‘fight-or-flight-or-freeze’ reaction, or the stress response.”(1)
Essentially, the nervous system releases a burst of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, preparing your body for ‘emergency action’.(1) As a result, your heart rate jumps, blood pressure rises, muscles stiffen, breath quickens and your senses improve.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
While everyone reacts to stress differently, there are some common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload. See the chart below for a more in-depth list.
Stressors come in all different shapes and sizes. The causes of stress depend on your perception as well—something that is stressful to you may not faze someone else. More often than not, stressors typically include:
- Major life changes
- Financial issues
- Lack of work-life balance
- Relationship problems
- Chronic worry
- Unrealistic expectations / Perfectionism
- Pessimism / Negative self-talk
- Children and family
If you are exposed to stress for long periods of time, eventually it can lead to serious health problems. Stress is not only one of the main factors causing insomnia and other sleep disorders, it can cause chest pain, high cholesterol, cardiac problems, depression, hair loss and more. It also poses a great threat for diabetes and heart attack. (2, 3)
TIPS FOR MANAGING STRESS
There is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy for managing stress; while you might need to exercise, someone else may enjoy reading instead. Next time you’re faced with a stressful situation, overcome it using the tips below.
- Shift your mindset. By thinking more positively, you can cope better with stressful situations and improve your quality of life. It will also help boost your immune system, improve eating habits and even motivate you to workout.
- Prioritize your time. If you’re like me, you sometimes take on too much, or have a hard time saying no. Truth is, saying yes to everything comes with a price – more stress and less time for yourself. Rather than burn yourself out, factor some “me” time into your busy schedule.
- Try meditation. Meditating allows you to calm your mind and focus on breathing, ultimately reducing stress. If you’re new to meditation, check out these techniques to find what works best for you.
- Foster strong relationships. Dealing with stressful situations can sometimes be too much to handle on our own. Make sure you have a strong support system of friends, family and co-workers that you can turn to for advice, or maybe just a quick coffee break, to help you get through tough times.
For more, check out this list of 37 Stress Management Tips from Reader’s Digest.
Next time you’re frazzled, skip the comfort food and avoid the mood swings. Don’t allow stress to run your life, or cause you to spin out of control when faced with a challenge. Pay attention to the warning signs and face your situation head on with a coping method that works for you! Have a method of your own? Share in the comments section below.