“The secret of health for both mind and body
is not to mourn for the past nor to worry about the future
but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
Each day, every person faces stress in some form or fashion, most of the time without even noticing. Some might notice their stress more through other signs and symptoms connected to or caused by stress. While stress is inevitable and cannot be avoided, it can be managed to improve our mental and physical health.
Signs of Stress Overload
Some of the signs and symptoms can be broken down into psychological signs (ex. inability to make simple decisions, racing thoughts, or unmotivated negative thinking), emotional signs (ex. irritable, extra sensitive, feeling out of control), physical signs (ex. aches/pains, nausea, or tiredness), behavioral signs (ex. forgetfulness, change in appearance, relationship problems). If you notice that any of these signs negatively impact you or others, it might be wise to bring those up with your primary care physician or a trusted mental health professional.
Stress Functions as an Alarm
Stress is a mix of physical and emotional responses and something that can be identified across the world in positive, negative, and neutral interactions. It’s our bodies’ way of informing us of changes in our environment with the hopes that we identify the source, properly manage our emotions, and utilize stress management tools when things become overwhelming. For most, this can be challenging and depending on the situation, someone’s stress can be considered short or long-term given the amount of change, external factors, and their sense of control.
Identifying Stress through Self-Awareness
A great place to start is by identifying your stress and focusing on being more self-aware through asking yourself questions, spending time journaling, or considering frequently made concerns from loved ones and friends. How well do you feel when it comes to managing your stress? Are there some things that most of our stress is tied to? In what ways have you coped with stress in the past? What doesn’t seem to be working when managing my stress? Asking yourself these questions and seeking answers will help you feel more in control of your emotions and ability to deal with stress.
Quick & Easy Stress Management Techniques
1) Incorporate Your Five Senses
Earlier, we talked about how stress can function similarly to an alarm clock. You can respond to those stress signals or alarms by utilizing your five senses. Those included our sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, for example, you can chew strong minty gum. If you know something will trigger stress, you can start chewing gum before that event or task. Studies have revealed that chewing gum affects how we engage our muscles and hold tension during times of stress. Chewing gum can also increase your alertness and is a low-cost form of stress management.
2) Switch Up Things in Your Environment
People with higher levels of stress also tend to have very concrete thinking patterns and pessimistic outlooks when making decisions. Research studies suggest that this happens because our brain has been rewired to focus on negative aspects over positive ones and false thinking patterns have reinforced those thought processes. While these tendencies are done in self-defense, they can also be very draining and isolating and negatively impacts our social interactions with others. If you notice you’re becoming more resistant to new things or certain patterns, you might want to pay attention to those and how it affects your stress. Afterward, reflect on if those reasons were valid if feel they weren’t next time try to take a different driving route, change something in your environment, or act the way you would want to feel and the opposite of how you feel.
3) Get Moving & Stay Active
Exercise can help some people productively process their stress while also positively impacting their health. It can also look different depending on the type of preferred exercise, such as running, golfing, working out, or various other activities. It also doesn’t take much time; for example, you could start by setting a timer for ten minutes each day to tidy up the environment around you. Or maybe, start walking in the afternoon to get moving and take time to process your day while you walk. If you notice yourself getting stressed during a walk and want to redirect your focus, try to find naturally occurring shapes in nature or your environment.
4) Focus on Positive Self-Talk
While most stress results from environmental factors, we as individuals can be just as bad or harsh on ourselves and negatively impact our stress levels. This often occurs in patterns such as how we talk to ourselves, make false assumptions, or replaying negative memories or statements over and over. To challenge these negative patterns, you can ask yourself what you would say if someone shared that they were struggling with negative self-talk and follow your advice. It can be easier to encourage others over ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t need encouragement and guidance any less. If nothing seems to be helping, share your stress and what hasn’t been working with a professional.
5) Take A Break & Rest
And if nothing else, go easy on yourself and find ways to take breaks and recharge. Sometimes stress can seem larger than yourself; try to manage it in pieces little by little. You can also listen to guided imagery or breathing exercises while taking a break. You are important, and so is your mental health, and it’s okay to ask for extra help when working through your stress that has cumulated and become unbearable. You likely have a trusted support system to reach out to, who would gladly hang out or appreciate being asked to help you process things together.
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