In our modern world, so many of us experience chronic symptoms of stress that it has become a normal part of our lives. Stress is a natural response to perceived threats and was once a useful system to keep us safe – back when danger looked like a sabre toothed tiger, rather than a stack of urgent work documents.
Of course, these days, sabre toothed tigers are few and far between, and we have much better defenses against wild animals. So, our perceived threats are very different, and rarely life-threatening. While our worlds have evolved, our stress response has not.
Symptoms of Stress
The symptoms of stress can take many forms. Sometimes, stress can boost our productivity and motivate us into success. It has its benefits in small doses.
However, when we feel stressed over long periods of time, it can have a severe impact on our health. You might notice that your sleep is affected and you start to become more anxious than usual. You might suffer with headaches, stomach aches or skin complaints. In the severest cases, you can become depressed, isolated and suicidal. You need to deal with your stress before it becomes a danger in itself.
Is important to note that the symptoms of stress are due to your reactions, rather than the stressors themselves. That means, if you can’t remove the object of your concern, you can still alleviate your symptoms so you are better able to cope with it.
The Principles of Stress Management
Firstly, it is important not to dismiss any negative emotions that you are feeling. It can be tempting to try and shrug off your frustration and distract yourself with other things, but if you don’t own your stress, it will get worse over time.
You can then work on simplifying your life so that you have less cause for stress around you. Practice your time management skills with a to-do list and work on building a positive and practical morning and evening routine that will help you get the most out of every day, as well as a good night’s sleep. The power of a restful night cannot be underestimated.
Finally, remember to breathe. When you feel stressed, your breaths can become shorter and shallower, which means your lungs are unable to push as much oxygen around your body. Focus on longer breaths, rather than deeper, as this will help to slow your heart rate and give you a chance to rationalize your feelings.
Stress Management Tools
There are lots of relatively simple ways to tackle stress and relax your mind. These techniques should be practiced daily, so your mind becomes more efficient at tackling stress as it arises.
One of the simplest ideas is to use mindfulness to become more present in the moment. Just the act of paying attention over time can make it easier to rationalize minor irritations when they arise.
An extension of this idea is sensory relief. This encourages you to find five things you can see, four things you can hear and then notice any smells. Focus on your breath and take hold of something – your knees are fine if you have nothing solid nearby. This is a reassuring trick for those times when you feel overwhelmed with stress that helps to bring you back into the present moment.
Meditation is one of the most popular and effective tools for stress relief. If you have a little more time, and you don’t want to sit still, you might prefer yoga. Or you might simply turn up your favourite song and let the music wash over you. Sometimes this is the only therapy that we need!
Of course, talking is one of the best ways to release yourself of a burden. Build a support network that can include friends, family and professional therapists. It might include a God or a spiritual leader. Write down your thoughts to get them out of your head and spend time in nature to reconnect with the simpler things in life.
When you are feeling particularly low, look for ways to inspire laughter – share a joke with your friends or watch a funny TV programme.
Build a Stress-Free Life
The aim of all of these stress relief techniques is to reduce the need for medical intervention. While there is no shame in taking prescription drugs to help manage your mental health, this should always be a last resort, as they are extremely addictive and have a range of side effects.
Remember, not all stress is bad and you have the power to overcome those negative experiences. Put your trust in yourself and try a few of these tips and tricks to help build a calmer, more tranquil life.
If you want to know more about how to manage stress and improve your wellbeing, head to Vitacodis.com to download “Your Guide to a Stress-Free Life”, a detailed free eBook that explores the reasons for stress and the ways you can find relief.
Written by: Anita Young