Stress is simply a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. In other words, it’s an omnipresent part of life. A stressful event can trigger the “fight-or-flight” response, causing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through the body.
Never say “there is nothing I can do about it”. No! Don’t accept stress as a part of your lifestyle, you can deal with it, you can minimize it, stress can be controlled. Some quick tips according to Stress Management by Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Robert Segal, M.A.:
- Move your body frequently—don’t sit for more than an hour
- Make positive face-to-face connection with other people a priority
- When you can’t change the stressor, learn to avoid, alter, adapt, or accept
- Reduce your intake of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
- Do something you enjoy every day
- Get all the restful sleep that you need to feel your best.
According to the authors, there are a few tips to manage stress since it is not possible to stop stressful situations altogether, you cannot control what happens outside of YOU but you can control how your reactions will be on the situations.
In stress management, it is very easy to identify major events that is posing a threat or acting up as a source of stress e.g. moving house, house rents, a sick child/relative or loss of any kind but how do we identify the things that brings the daily stress we go through.
1. Identify habits and behaviours that add to stress
You can do this by starting a journal, at the end of each day rate your stress level and look through your day and know what spark the stress in the first place. Write down the following:
- What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally
- How you acted in response
- What you did to make yourself feel better
2. Replacing unhealthy coping strategies with healthy ones
What you do when you are stressed matters a lot to you and your health in general. The way we cope with stress could either compound the stress or lessen it. Some unhealthy ways to cope with stress are:
- Using pills or drugs to relax
- Drinking too much
- Sleeping too much
- Bingeing on junk or comfort food
- Zoning out for hours looking at your phone
- Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
- Taking out your stress on others
3. Get Moving
You don’t have to be an Olympic delegate to get moving. Just 30 minutes of exercise is all you need, when I say I exercise I mean an activity you really enjoy doing since you are more likely to stick with it. When your body moves continuously for between 20-30 minutes endorphin is released [endorphin is a pleasure hormone is released more when the body is tensed to relieve stress, anger and other negative emotions]. You can get stress off your back through the following:
- Put on some music and dance around [I do this a lot]
- Take your dog for a walk
- Walk or cycle to the grocery store
- Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator
- Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way
- Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you workout
- Play ping-pong or an activity-based video game with your kids
When you are in the habit of doing one of the above whenever stress is setting in, you will be able to refocus, clear your mind and probably get answers to any bugging questions or get solutions to your burdens even if all that you will do is tell it to someone else who is likely to have a better idea than you do.
4. Connect with Others
The last part of item 3 is about talking to someone else, there is a lot of benefit in socially interacting with others. “Two good heads are better than one”, is a good saying that has benefited many over the years. Disconnect a little from your online friends and make some physical connections, the facial reactions, expressions is all that is needed to help de-stress sometimes. In connecting however, be with those people you are comfortable with, it is very important since you can still be lonely with a lot of people around you.
Expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation. There is nothing more calming to your nervous system than communicating with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. This experience of safety—as perceived by your nervous system—results from nonverbal cues that you hear, see and feel.
The inner ear, face, heart, and stomach are wired together in the brain, so socially interacting with another person face-to-face—making eye contact, listening in an attentive way, talking—can quickly calm you down and put the brakes on defensive stress responses like “fight-or-flight.” It can also release hormones that reduce stress, even if you’re unable to alter the stressful situation itself. Of course, it’s not always realistic to have a pal close by to lean on when you feel overwhelmed by stress, but by building and maintaining a network of close friends you can improve your resiliency to life’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.
The following will be of great help too:
I had always thought stress was a part of my life till I understood the above and more, it had been a guide for me, it was funny to note that when I needed to identify the stressors, some places and people I least expected were actually adding stress to my life unconsciously. I only needed to avoid them [not the best method but it worked for me] and I became better for it, I had to take care of myself and it was really important I do.
You need to understand that some people had been broken and ended badly because of stress and that is the reason we all need to manage it and manage it well. Some are stressed to the level of developing high blood pressures, ulcers and other psychosomatic illnesses and some even ended up committing suicide! We cannot stop stressful situations but our disposition matters because it determines how we end it.
I will be concluding this series in the next post and there I will discuss the concluding part on tips to managing stress.
I weighed in yesterday at 166.1lbs [75.5kg]. I will want to stay fit and healthier before Christmas [I hope something special is cooking for Xmas?]