The Definitive Guide to Stress Management
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
These days, life moves fast. The internet causes everybody to be in constant communication, making quiet, peaceful times harder than ever to find. On top of that, people are juggling work, a family, commitments, and trying to make time for physical and mental well being.
If you don’t know how to manage your time, it can all become too much. Your mental and physical health will suffer, and that will add to the stress you’re already feeling. Yikes! So, how do we identify stress, deal with it, and learn to live a more stress-free life?
Managing stress takes practice, just like exercise, eating right, and any other habit-forming activity.
First, let’s identify signs of stress and stressors. Then, we’ll tackle ways to manage stress, coping mechanisms, and hopefully send you on your way to a more peaceful existence.
Identifying Signs of Stress
We all feel stress, but it’s not easy to pin down exactly what this means in our life and how it’s affecting us. There’s no medical definition of stress, which makes identifying it as thick as the fog you feel when you’re in a bad place.
In general, stress is a feeling that you’re under abnormal amounts of pressure. Situations or events often put pressure on us, and we feel like we can’t cope, or have no control over the outcome. So, how does this manifest in ways that we can see?
Physical Signs of Stress
Your body creates a physical response to stress, affects your behavior, and makes you experience intense emotions. You may encounter headaches, tiredness, an upset stomach, lose sleep, eat badly, and more.
These outcomes will permeate your life and add to the stress, so it’s a catch 22. You have to break the cycle to free yourself. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about how later on in this guide.
Mental Signs of Stress
The most common and obvious mental signs of stress are anxiety and depression. It’s so difficult to understand if these issues are hereditary or situational. To make matters worse, feeling these ways, and then trying to cope with them, can actually add to your stress. The stress of health care appointments, the possibility of needing medication, and so on, can raise your stress level.
Again, these outcomes can increase your anxiety and depression, making you feel like you’re forever stuck in a negative and frustrating loop. Have no fear! There are ways out of this tunnel, and we will discuss them shortly.
How Stress Affects Your System
It’s incredibly helpful to understand how physical and mental stress affects our bodies. Our bodies are the most powerful, complicated, and beautiful machines in the world. Just like stress manifests in ways that we can see, it also affects us in ways that we can’t see at all.
Comprehending how our bodies respond to events can open a window and enlighten us in ways that are particularly beneficial to our lives.
The Physical Response To Stress
When we feel anxious, our bodies release the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are most often known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, which goes back to a mechanism that helped the earliest humans react quickly to life-threatening situations.
In modern times we don’t need the same tools for survival. Therefore, unfortunately, this evolutionary response nowadays causes our body to overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, like being late to a meeting.
Chronic stress also takes a huge physical toll on your body. It contributes to high blood pressure, has been linked to obesity, and causes actual changes in your brain, contributing to anxiety, depression, and addiction. The good news is, these changes can be reversed. There’s always a chance to start over.
How To Cope With Stress
Stress affects every single person in the world. A key factor in coping with stress is realizing that you are not alone. There is hope for the future and there are proven techniques to help you beat stress and live a happier, and longer, life.
1. Identify Your Triggers
Understanding what triggers you is the first step to staying ahead of disorienting situations. Sit down and reflect on events or situations that stress you and try to understand the underlying cause of these stressors. Are there recurring themes? Are similar situations coming up time and time again?
Identifying your triggers is key to seeing through the fog of stress more clearly, and being able to look at it rationally, rather than from a panicked state.
2. Sort The Reasons for Stress Into Categories
It’s amazing how identifying reasons for stress can make the situations seem more manageable.
Give this a try. Sort your stressful situations into three categories:
Those with practical solutions
Those that will get better with time
Those you can’t do anything about
When you look at them in this format, you’ll realize there’s a lot that you can’t actually do much about in the present moment. Realizing this is fundamental to releasing worry and understanding that your stressful situations can, and will, get better with time. If it’s out of your hands, try to let it go. Easier said than done, but worth the intentional effort.
3. Organize Your Time
Take a moment to look at your life. Are you doing too much? Are there things that could be handed over to someone else? Maybe the answer is yes, maybe the answer is no. Either way, make a list of what you need to do, categorize it, and prioritize it.
Once you’ve listed and prioritized, set smaller achievable goals. Accomplishing lots of tiny goals is much more achievable than accomplishing huge tasks. The mental benefits of checking things off a list go a long way, and you’ll be amazed at how good it feels to achieve something tangible.
4. Get Exercise
Physical activity is one of the best ways to relax your body and mind. You don’t have to go for an hour-long run to feel better. Something as small as going for a brisk walk outside can really help improve your mood and has great physical effects.
Exercise deepens your breathing and helps to relieve muscle tension. A simple brisk walk can achieve this! Next time you’re in the thick of a stressful situation, take yourself outside and go for a 15-minute walk. Watch how much better you feel, immediately.
Deep breathing can instantly relieve pressure. The best part about deep breathing is that you can do it from anywhere! This is more than an advertisement for the new yoga studio that just opened up down the street. This is science.
The relaxation response is a technique designed to counteract the fight or flight response. Deep breathing literally helps to lower your pulse rate and blood pressure. Training your body to achieve this state of enhanced relaxation can significantly improve your mood and reduce stress.
6. Social Support
Too often we try to take on too much alone. Asking for help can be a huge stress reliever and also help you organize your time.
Studies show that people who have close relationships with family and friends receive emotional support that helps them better deal with chronic stress and times of crisis. Social support also helps us enhance resilience and is great for our physical and mental health.
If you feel you’re lacking in social support, try to get more involved in things you’re interested in, and be proactive in reaching out to new and old friends/family alike. Don’t expect to gain a network overnight, but it will come with time.
7. Eat Healthily
A well-balanced diet will make you feel better and may help to control your moods. Make sure your diet includes essential brain nutrients like vitamins and minerals. These significantly affect our physical and mental health and are vital to reducing stress. Also, don’t skip meals, this can quickly increase your stress and affect your mood faster than you may realize.
A pre-cooked meal delivery service like CleanBite provides healthy, nutrient-filled meals right to your door. They help to reduce stress by taking away the need to meal prep, cook, or clean. They’re also highly effective for time management. It’s one less thing to worry about, and you get a delicious, healthy meal to keep you going.
Go easy on yourself. Everybody experiences stress, and it’s important to accept that no matter what you do, you will always have moments of difficulty. Coping with stress, just like learning how to eat better, get into an exercise routine, kick a bad habit, or form a new one, takes time and direct effort. Tackle stress head-on with these tips and watch your life transform for the better.