Health Tips – Managing Stress cont’d
The following lists some of the common warning signs and symptoms of chronic stress. The more signs and symptoms you notice in yourself, the closer you may be to stress overload.
• Memory problems
• Inability to concentrate
• Poor judgment
• Seeing only the negative
• Anxious or racing thoughts
• Constant worrying
• Depression or general unhappiness
• Anxiety and agitation
• Moodiness, irritability, or anger
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Loneliness and isolation
• Other mental or emotional health problems
• Aches and pains
• Diarrhea or consitpation
• Nausea, dizziness
• Chest pain, rapid heart rate
• Loss of sex drive
• Frequent colds or flu
• Eating more or less
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Withdrawing from others
• Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
• Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
• Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
Causes of stress
The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you can be stressful. This includes positive events such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or receiving a promotion.
Of course, not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be internal or self-generated, when you worry excessively about something that may or may not happen, or have irrational, pessimistic thoughts about life.
Common external causes of stress
1. Major life changes
2. Work or school
3. Relationship difficulties
4. Financial problems
5. Being too busy
6. Children and family
Common internal causes of stress
1. Chronic worry
3. Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility
4. Negative self-talk
5. Unrealistic expectations/Perfectionism
6. All-or-nothing attitude
Stress tolerance: How much stress is too much?
We’re all different. Some people seem to be able to roll with life’s punches, while others tend to crumble in the face of small obstacles or frustrations. Some people even thrive on the excitement of a high-stress lifestyle. For example, your morning commute may make you anxious and tense because you worry that traffic will make you late. Others, however, may find the trip relaxing because they allow more time and enjoy listening to music while they drive.
Factors that influence your stress tolerance
Emotional awareness. Many of us are so used to being overloaded with stress that we don’t even notice it anymore. Feeling stressed feels normal. But awareness of what you’re feeling, physically and emotionally, can have a profound effect on both your stress tolerance and how you go about reducing stress. Having the emotional awareness to recognize when you’re stressed and then being able to calm and soothe yourself can increase your tolerance to stress and help you bounce back from adversity
The quality of your relationships and support network. Social engagement has always been a human being’s most evolved response to life’s stressors. So it’s no surprise that people with a strong network of friends and family—with whom they’re comfortable sharing emotions—are better able to tolerate stress. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the less opportunity you have for social engagement and the greater your vulnerability to stress.
Physical activity. Regular exercise can lift your mood and serve as a distraction to your worries, allowing you to find some quiet time and break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress and anxiety.
Diet. The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with life’s stressors. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress while eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help you better cope with life’s ups and downs.
Your sense of control – It’s easier to take stress in your stride if you have confidence in your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges. This is why hardship or persistent money worries can be major stressors for so many of us. If you feel like things are out of your control, you’re likely to have less tolerance for stress.
Your attitude and outlook – Hopeful people are often more stress-hardy. They tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humor, and accept change as an inevitable part of life.
Your knowledge and preparation – The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less stressful than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately.
Whether you’re trying to build your tolerance to stress or cope with its symptoms, you have much more control over stress than you might think. Unfortunately, many of us try to deal with stress in ways that only compound the problem. We drink too much to unwind at the end of a stressful day, fill up on comfort food, zone out in front of the TV for hours, use pills to relax, or lash out at other people. However, there are many healthier and more effective ways to cope with stress and its symptoms.
This is something you can do right now to help yourself start to feel better: exercise. Activities that require moving both your arms and your legs are particularly effective at managing stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, dancing, and aerobic classes are good choices, especially if you exercise mindfully (focusing your attention on the physical sensations you experience as you move). If you’ve been traumatized or experienced the immobilization stress response, mindfully exercising in this way can help you to become “unstuck” and move on
Connect to others
The simple act of talking face to face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress when you’re feeling uncomfortable, unsure, or unsafe. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe your nervous system. Being helpful and friendly to others delivers stress-reducing pleasure as well as providing great opportunities to expand your social networkConnect to others
Engage your senses
Another fast way to relieve stress is by engaging one or more of your senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. The key is to find the sensory input that works for you. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee? Or maybe petting an animal works quickly to make you feel centered? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment to find what works best for you
Set aside relaxation time
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the fight or flight or mobilization stress response.
Get your rest
Feeling tired can increase stress by causing you to think irrationally. At the same time, chronic stress can disrupt your sleep. Whether you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep so you feel less stressed and more productive and emotionally balanced
Eat a healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet isn’t about eating bland food, adhering to strict dietary limitations, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. But by re-examining your existing diet and experimenting with new ways of eating that promote mental health, you can find an eating plan that not only helps to relieve stress, but also boosts your energy, improves your outlook, and stabilizes your mood.
There are many safe nondrug remedies for anxiety, from mind-body techniques to supplements to calming teas. Some start working right away, while others may help lessen anxiety over time. The good news is that Swissgarde has provided the following that can help you manage stress and they include:
Night time Tea