Stress is something everyone has faced in a deep and personal way, Living with stress is surprisingly common. Numerous studies have shown that stress has a strong negative impact on well-being and prolonged stress has been associated with anxiety, depression, coronary diseases and sleep problems.
To live happily and fulfilled life, we need to learn how to respond to the challenges of life without getting stressed. But stress itself is complicated.
Where does Stress Come’s from
Why are we stressed? Stress is the body’s normal reaction to daily events. There are several sources of stress and as many ways to react to it. Fundamentally, stress is a human defense mechanism, but it is important to not let it take over.
Stress comes from various sources of a different nature, such as physical, psychological, emotional, social, etc. The stimulus can be either minor or very significant, and either temporary or chronic. We don’t all react the same way to sources of stress, so it is important to identify what your stress triggers are to better face them.
Signs of Feeling Stressed
Signs of stress can be very obvious or buried deep in our psyche depending on how we’ve dealt with stressful experiences through our lives.
Obvious Signs of Stress
Symptoms of stress commonly manifest in terms of physical, mental or emotional discomfort.
- Physical signs such as headaches, tiredness, an upset stomach or an inability to sleep well
- Mental signs include feeling overwhelmed, being ‘down in the dumps’ and unable to enjoy yourself or switch off
- Emotional signs include being irritable, impatient, anxious, nervous, depressed, lonely and feeling like there’s no way out
Not So Obvious Signs
- Emotional eating or overeating – Turning to food when we are stressed is very common because food helps us feel better in the moment by triggering our brain’s reward system. Often, we end up overeating to numb our feelings so we can avoid thinking about them. This often ends up leading to compulsive or binge eating where we can feel that we don’t have any control over our food choices.
- Reliance on substances like alcohol – Similar to food, some of us turns to alcohol or other substances to help us relax at the moment. However, by doing this over and over again, it can easily become an addiction.
- Nervous behaviors like chewing nails – Since we are not dealing with stress directly, we end up releasing our nervous energy by biting nails or pinching our skin.
- Passive aggressiveness – The stress of being stressed makes us irritable and more aggressive than normal as we usually want to be left alone and don’t have patience in dealing with other people or routine tasks during the day. Often, this can lead to us pushing away the people we most love and makes us feel even more lonely and depressed.
How to Manage Stress
According to Mayo Clinic, there are simple 4A’s that we need to follow to manage our stress or to get relief from the stress.
Mayo Clinic is one of the most prestigious non-profit medical center in the world, based in Rochester, Minnesota founded back in 1864.
Let us discuss the 4A’s that are mentioned in Mayo Clinic,
Believe it or not, you can simply avoid a lot of stress. Plan ahead, rearrange your surroundings and reap the benefits of a lighter load.
- Take control of your surroundings. Is the traffic insane? Leave early for work or take the longer, less traveled route. Hate waiting in line at the corporate cafeteria? Pack your lunch and eat at your desk or in a break room.
- Avoid people who bother you. If you have a co-worker who causes your jaw to tense, put physical distance between the two of you. Sit far away at meetings or walk around his or her cubicle, even if it requires some extra steps.
- Learn to say no. You have a lot of responsibilities and demands on your time. At a certain point, you cross the line between being charitable and being foolish. Turn down the neighborhood sports league. Pass on coaching T-ball. Those around you will appreciate more time with a relaxed you. And you’ll have time to enjoy them, too.
- Ditch part of your list. Label your to-do list with A’s, B’s and C’s, according to importance. On hectic days, scratch the C’s from your list.
However, some problems can’t be avoided. For those situations, try another technique.
One of the most helpful things you can do during times of stress is to take inventory, then attempt to change your situation for the better.
- Respectfully ask others to change their behavior. And be willing to do the same. Small problems often create larger ones if they aren’t resolved. If you’re tired of being the target of a friend’s jokes at parties, ask him or her to leave you out of the comedy routine. In return, be willing to enjoy his or her other jokes and thank him or her for humoring you.
- Communicate your feelings openly. Remember to use “I” statements, as in, “I feel frustrated by shorter deadlines and a heavier workload. Is there something we can do to balance things out?”
- Manage your time better. Lump together similar tasks — group your phone calls, car errands, and computer-related tasks. The reward of increased efficiency will be extra time.
- State limits in advance. Instead of stewing over a colleague’s nonstop chatter, politely start the conversation with, “I’ve got only five minutes to cover this.”
Sometimes we may have no choice but to accept things the way they are. For those times try to:
- Talk with someone. You may not be able to change a frustrating situation, but that doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t legitimate. Phone or schedule a coffee break with an understanding friend. You may feel better after talking it out.
- Forgive. It takes energy to be angry. Forgiving may take practice, but by doing so you will free yourself from burning more negative energy. Why stew in your anger when you could shrug and move on?
- Practice positive self-talk. It’s easy to lose objectivity when you’re stressed. One negative thought can lead to another, and soon you’ve created a mental avalanche. Be positive. Instead of thinking, “I am horrible with money, and I will never be able to control my finances,” try this: “I made a mistake with my money, but I’m resilient. I’ll get through it.”
- Learn from your mistakes. There is value in recognizing a “teachable moment.” You can’t change the fact that procrastination hurt your performance, but you can make sure you set aside more time in the future.
Thinking you can’t cope is one of the greatest stressors. That’s why adapting — which often involves changing your standards or expectations — can be most helpful in dealing with stress.
- Adjust your standards. Do you need to vacuum and dust twice a week? Would macaroni and cheese be an unthinkable substitute for homemade lasagna? Redefine success and stop striving for perfection, and you may operate with a little less guilt and frustration.
- Practice thought-stopping. Stop gloomy thoughts immediately. Refuse to replay a stressful situation as negative, and it may cease to be negative.
- Reframe the issue. Try looking at your situation from a new viewpoint. Instead of feeling frustrated that you’re home with a sick child, look at it as an opportunity to bond, relax and finish a load of laundry.
- Adopt a mantra. Create a saying such as, “I can handle this,” and mentally repeat it in tough situations.
- Create an assets column. Imagine all of the things that bring you joy in life, such as vacation, children, and pets. Then call on that list when you’re stressed. It will put things into perspective and serve as a reminder of life’s joys.
- Look at the big picture. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in a year or in five years?” The answer is often no. Realizing this makes a stressful situation seem less overwhelming.
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