8 STRESS RELIEF TIPS
Learning stress management for a better lifestyle…
All of us, at some points of time in life, feel weighed down by demands of the events happening around us. We do feel overwhelmed by the pressures of our environment. Our mind and body reacts to these external pressures in some ways. This reaction is felt by us as a condition called stress. Experiences of different kinds, transitions and also hectic busy life causes stress. We all have different ways of coping and navigating through life. Hence, the way each of us reacts to the demands of life is also different. Some of us can endure slightly better than the others. Also the levels of stress that a human life is exposed to range from day-to-day aspects like dealing with problems of work, traffic conditions, health, relationships, decision making, relocation, transitions in school and college life, financial budgets, anticipation of loss of some kind, marriage, childbirth, etc; to more specific, less frequent situations like taking care of a disabled or terminally ill family member, bereavement, divorce, chronic illness or loss of job. Most of us go through the milder levels of stress from time to time, but a lot of us also go through more unfortunate times.
When we go through small amounts of stress that only last over a short period of time, we usually learn to cope through it but when there are prolonged mental, emotional and physical responses to the life events, then it becomes unbearable and it has many damaging side effects. When we go through an experience where the brain perceives any kind of danger to our emotional, social or physical well being our body reacts in the form of flight or fight response. During this time chemicals called adrenaline and cortisol are released in our brain. This is how our body prepares for dealing with the stressors. It leads to conditions like increase in heart beat, sweating, dry mouth, dizziness,high blood pressure and flow, sometimes also leads to clotting of blood or change in blood sugar levels.
These effects are temporary when stress is transitory in nature and as soon as the event that triggered the physical and emotional reaction ends, our mind and body recover. But at times, depending on many factors like genetics, the depth of the life event, our childhood exposure to stress, our past experiences in dealing with problems, our personality and endurance capacity, there may be frequent effects of stress on our body and mind leading to the above mentioned conditions. Over a period of time, this could lead to serious physical, mental, emotional and social symptoms. Manifested emotional symptoms could be feeling anxious, sad, overwhelmed, teary or frightened. There could also be excessive irritability and anger resulting in not being able to find ways to relax or find pleasure. You might lose your appetite or indulge in binge eating to distract yourself from the stressful triggers. Long term stress can exacerbate physical illnesses like feeling dizzy, excessive sweating, strokes, hypertension, chronic pain and headaches, diabetes, insomnia or over sleeping. This could also lead to low levels of immunity and digestive problem. There could be avoidance of involvement in social situations and activities, and as a result, intimacy level with your partner could also drop. All this could lead to lower self esteem.
“Long term stress can lead to physical illnesses such as diziness, excessive sweating, strokes, hypertension, chronic pain, headache, diabetes or insomnia…”
What is Stress Management?
Coping with high levels of stress is called stress management. This might not be an automatic process for many people, hence stress management often has to be learnt from a professional in order to avoid long term debilitating mental, emotional, physical and social effects on your well being. Many of us do not realise that we are often overloaded with stress and that our well being is challenged because we resort to unhealthy ways of managing our stress such as smoking, drinking, recklessness with self that can cause injury, withdrawing from family, friends and colleagues, procrastinating commitments and decision making, skipping meals or excessive indulgence in food, etc. These activities cause distraction and comfort but lead to long term and probably lifetime damages.
My 8 healthy stress relief tips:
• Exercises and good diet are excellent stress management practices that work in almost any condition: Participate consistently in any form of exercise like yoga, running, walking, dancing, or any kind of sports. Physical activities release chemicals that will balance out the effects of flight or fight response to stress of your body. Further, do not skip your meals. Have a planned meal routine whether you are hungry or not, just follow it, and avoid indulging in comfort food like sugar and caffeine. If you smoke or drink to manage your stress, try and cut it down as smoking and drinking will never let you break the cycle of stress. On the other hand, exercise and proper diet definitely go a long way in helping handle almost anything in life.
• Talking to a trustful person about your stress can help you release it thereby reducing the effects of it on you: Do put in efforts not to withdraw from others and keep the feelings to yourselves due to the fear of being judged or misunderstood. If you cannot find anybody trusted and do not want to weigh down your family and friends with your problems seek professional help. Counsellors are non-judgemental listeners and online counselling could help you understand your triggers that cause stress and help you modify your emotional response to the events happening around you.
• Breathing exercises & Relaxing techniques: Breathing slows down the response of your body towards the stressful situation. Practise 3 second long breaths both inhaling and exhaling through each of your nostril. Besides, there are many relaxing techniques which will help you notice the tension in your body parts and relax them step by step so that the automatic effects of stress on your body can be reduced. Consistently practising them will help your body and mind endure the effects of external pressures of life and develop a chemical balance in your brain. Counselling will help you learn relaxation techniques.
• Hobbies and leisure time help relieve daily stress: Pursuing interests and creating leisure time for yourself is of paramount significance in managing your stress, as it adds a lot of meaning to your life experiences and takes the weight away from the stressful triggers. Procrastinating self interests is hazardous when you are already going through tough times. Always plan out time for yourself. It could be to pursue some creative work (cooking, gardening, music, writing, reading, dancing) or social interests, or learning something new (music instrument, new language, etc…) or just spending some peaceful time with yourself recreating, meditating or being with people you love. You express your stress without realising when you do things for yourself. You can just be with yourself laugh, cry, do whatever you want, be you. You deserve to be at calm with yourself.
• Good communication is also part of stress management: Communicating in an effective and assertive way avoids various unwanted responsibilities and misunderstandings that trigger stress. Do not always hold on to your feelings. Comprehend them and speak them out. Do not carry harmful weight with you everywhere you go. You have to learn neither to be passive nor aggressive but at the same time, assertive in your expressions.
• Gaining control over your life will help you manage your stress better: We always react when we do not see things that we can control as we feel helpless and drained out with the flow of events and emotions in and around us. At such a time, we should understand and accept things that cannot change. Try and be aware of the exact experiences that trigger overwhelming response by your mind and body. Further start planning in order to be able to take care of these stressful experiences in a way that you can. Also stress can be a motivating emotion if you gain control over yourselves and life. So motivate yourself, set up short as well as long term goals and work hard and consistently towards achieving them.
• Time management is also an excellent stress management technique: Many a time, due to your fast paced and hectic life, you do not find time to relax and that is what starts effecting your mind and body. As a result, there are chemical changes in your brain, your body reacts and when this happens for a long time you get burnt out. All you need to do is learn a few time management skills such as: planning your day each day, keeping your belongings and work space organised, prioritising activities based on deadlines and significance, learning to say no and accepting only what you can practically do, making it a point to leave elbow room in case of emergencies, finding time for leisure, etc. Do not be accommodating to everyone and everything. Work towards balancing all aspects of your life by finding time for all.
• Cognitive restructuring can help you control your stressful thoughts: When we are struggling with stress, evidence suggests that we tend to focus on negative aspects of life to an extent that we develop a negative thinking pattern and we catastrophise every experience we live. We think in absolute terms. Our thinking is the source of our actions and as a consequence, the stress factors. With practises, you can challenge and think in more positive and rational ways. Always remember that your response to the perceived danger around you causes your body and mind to react which leads to stress. Hence, be aware and alter your response to your surroundings. Online counselling can help you do that by providing a neutral and encouraging environment for you to express yourself.
To conclude stress management is about being aware and accepting that stress is a part of life, identifying its triggers, planning in advance how to respond to them and taking care of yourself in the process. Getting to know your stressors before they happen and defining ways to reduce them will go a long way in minimising your stress. At the same time, this has to be done moderately as over anticipation leads to stress as well. Online counselling can help you find out what causes stress in your life, understanding your unique underlying emotions and responses to these triggers and helping you to develop coping strategies to enhance your well being and save you from the long term dangers of living in stress. Online counselling can also help you be calmer and more relaxed. Feel free to ask me a question or book an appointment if you think that you need help to better manage your stress in order to improve your quality of life.