Stress Management – How to manage and reduce stress.
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s response to changes in life. It is a feeling of being under abnormal pressure. This pressure can come from different aspects of your day to day activities. Because life involves constant change, there is no avoiding stress. This is why the goal shouldn’t be to eliminate all stress but to eliminate unnecessary stress and effectively manage the rest.
Stress produces numerous physical and mental symptoms which vary according to each individual’s situational factors. These can include physical health decline as well as depression.
What causes stress?
Stress can come from many sources known as stressors. Because our experience of what stress is considered “stressful” is created by our unique perceptions of what we encounter in life, a situation may be perceived as “stressful” by one person and merely “challenging” by someone else.
One person’s stress trigger may not register as stressful to someone else. That said, certain situations tend to cause more stress in most people and can increase the risk of burnout. Because of this, many people are stressed by their relationships, their jobs, their financial issues, health problems, and more mundane things like clutter or busy schedules.
What are the signs and symptoms of stress?
Everyone experiences stress. However, when it is affecting your life, health, and wellbeing, it is important to tackle it as soon as possible. While stress affects everyone differently, there are common signs and symptoms to look out for:
- The feeling of constant worry or anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low self-esteem
- Diarrhoea and constipation
- Mood swings
- Difficulty relaxing
- Irritability or having short temper
- Eating more or less than usual
- Using alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs to relax
- Changes in your sleeping habits
- Aches and pains, particularly muscle tension
- Feelings of nausea or dizziness
- Loss of sex drive
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
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If you are experiencing these symptoms for a prolonged period and feel they are affecting your everyday life or making you feel unwell, you should speak to your GP. You should take these three steps when feeling stressed:
- Realize when it is causing you a problem
- Identify the cause
- Review your lifestyle
Steps to help you manage stress
- Eat healthily: Eating healthily can help reduce the risk of diet-related diseases. There is a growing amount of evidence showing how food affects our mood and how eating healthily can improve this. You can protect your feelings of wellbeing by ensuring that your diet produces adequate amounts of brain vitamins and minerals, as well as water.
- Exercise: Try to integrate physical exercise into your lifestyle as it can be very effective in relieving stress. Even just going out and getting some fresh air, and taking some light physical exercise like going for a walk can really help.
- Be mindful: Being mindful is a mind-body approach to life that helps us to relate differently to experiences. It involves paying attention to your thought and feelings in a way that increases our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices.
- Take time out: Take out time to relax. Strike the balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself. It can really reduce stress levels.
- Be aware of smoking and drinking alcohol: Try not to or reduce the amount you smoke and drink alcohol. Even though they seem to reduce tension initially, this is misleading as they often make problems worse.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself: Try to keep things in perspective. Remember that having a bad day is a universal human experience. If you stumble or feel you have failed, don’t beat yourself up. Take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself.
- Get some restful sleep: A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Rather than relying on medication, your aim should be to maximize your relaxation before going to sleep. Stop doing any mentally demanding work several hours before going to bed so that you give your brain time to calm down.