Everyone experiences stress from time to time. Whether it’s a tense interaction with a boss or pressure from friends and family, we all face stressful situations at some point or the other. Sometimes we experience stressful situations sporadically, while for some people, daily stress is a regular part of life.
Although we quickly relate to the negative side of it, not all stress is bad. ”Good stress” (called eustress) can help with motivation, focus, energy, and performance. For some people, it can also feel exciting. But chronic or negative stress can cause both physical and mental harm.
There are at least three different types of stress:
- Routine stress related to the pressures of work, family, and other daily responsibilities.
- Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce, or illness
- Traumatic stress, which happens when you are in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. Examples include a major accident, war, assault, or a natural disaster. This type of distress can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Knowing how to spot the signs of distress is the first step in developing ways to manage its adverse effects. Some of the more common physical, psychological, and emotional signs of chronic stress include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Difficulty sleeping
- Poor problem-solving
- Fear that the stressor won’t go away
- Persistent thoughts about one or more stressors
- Changes in behavior, including social withdrawal, feelings of sadness, frustration, loss of emotional control, inability to rest, and self-medication
Different people may feel or experience this in different ways.
Ways to manage stress
There’s a distinction between a stressor and actual stress. A stressor can be a person, place, or situation that’s causing you stress. Stress is the actual response to one or a combination of those stressors.
Therefore, when it comes to managing stress, making simple changes can go a long way in improving your overall health and reducing stress. Having tools and strategies you can turn to in stressful situations can prevent your stress levels from escalating.
Here are a few tips that can help:
- Find a balance: It’s important to structure some of your time so that you can be comfortably busy without being overwhelmed.
- Be kind to yourself: Do not interpret feeling stressed as weakness. Stress is a very normal reaction to the stressors in your life.
- Reach out more: As a preventive measure, reach out to someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, or coworker. Sharing your feelings or venting your concerns may help to reduce your stress.
- Eat well-balanced, regular meals: When it comes to managing worry, proper nutrition is your friend. Skipping meals can lower your blood sugar, which can depress your mood. In some cases, this can also trigger intense feelings of anger and frustration, Brown says.
- Exercise regularly: Engaging in regular physical activity can improve your overall health and reduce your distress levels. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. These feel-good hormones can also ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Get plenty of rest: Your ability to manage worry decreases when you’re tired. Try to get a recommended seven to nine hours each night. If you have insomnia, aim to get as much sleep as you can, then build in periods of rest during the day.
- Practice relaxation exercises: These exercises, which can include deep, slow breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, involve tensing and then relaxing various groups of muscles.
- Schedule your worry: While it may feel awkward at first, consider scheduling the worry to specific parts of the day. This would involve taking out time to seek out why we feel stressed and making a conscious decision to face it rather than run from it. This can cause those stressors loose the control they appear to hold over us.
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