Stress. Ouf, that's a big one. What is stress?
Stress is generally considered as being synonymous with distress. A “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.” It is your body's response to something that requires action or attention. With that said, stress can be quite helpful in certain situations. Here are some characteristics of positive stress:
- Motivates, focuses energy.
- More short term.
- Within our coping abilities.
- Feeling excited.
- Improved performance.
So if you were to get a promotion or a raise at work, have a child, or get a new pet, the stress you are feeling is more excitable, motivating, and refocused, direct energy.
Some characteristics of distress:
- Anxiety or concern.
- Short term or long term.
- Perceived as outside our coping abilities.
- Physical and mental dis-ease.
- Decreased performance.
It can be difficult to categorize stressors into objective lists because different people will have different reactions to particular situations. Stressors are also not limited to the external environment. Repetitive negative thought patterns, fears, and perfectionist expectations can cause a lot of distress for a human. Habitual behavior patterns can include over-scheduling, failing to be assertive or hold boundaries, or procrastination.
How can stress show up in your body? When you are stressed or feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a ton of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action. A consistent state or distress can really take a toll on the body. Some examples include:
- Low energy
- Easily irritated or frustrated
- Low self esteem
- Clenched jaw, grinding teeth
- Aches, pains, muscle tension
- Inability to focus
- Racing thoughts
- Increased use of alcohol, cigarettes, drugs
Stress is very much part of life, what matters is how we handle it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to prevent stress overload, and the health consequences that come with it.
Here are 10 ways to cope with chronic stress:
Movement is vital for shifting energy. Stagnant energy that sits too long can hold tension in your body, causing stress. Start with a 10 minute walk around the block, turn on your favorite song and dance/shake it out, turn on a 15 minute yoga video...whatever works for you. Find your groove!
- Avoid alcohol and other stimulants
Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine may temporarily relieve stress but will have negative health impacts and can make stress worse in the long run. Well-nourished bodies cope better, so start with a good breakfast, add more organic fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods and sugar, and drink more water.
- Try mindfulness based practices
Yoga, meditation, gardening, walking, qigong. Any practice that counterbalances your body's fight-or-flight hormones. By activating a state of restfulness will have a powerful impact on how you digest any stressors that may be in your life.
- Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is one of the body's self-healing tools. It lowers blood pressure, reduces heart rate, decreases stress hormones, exercises the lungs, increases physical and mental energy, and improves immunity. My personal favorite types of breathwork/pranayama: 3-part breath, Nadi Shodhana, Bhramari (bumblebee) breath.
- Learn to say NO
Not all stressors are within your control, but some are. Take control over the parts of your life that you can change that are causing you stress. If you find yourself with too much on your plate, people pleasing, and juggling too many responsibilities, learn to say NO, and take on only what you can.
- Spend time with supportive people
Even if it is only through facetime or a zoom call, those who love and support you will always have your back. Having a supportive community or friend(s)/family is vital. Being part of a network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help in tough times.
- Consider supplements
Here’s a brief overview of some common supplements that may help reduce stress & anxiety.
-Lemon Balm: member of the mint family. Soothing, reduces stress, and can help with nausea.
-Omega 3 fatty acids: reduced anxiety & inflammation, better cognitive function.
-Kava Kava: a psychoactive member of the pepper family. Used to treat mild stress and anxiety.
-B-Complex: boosts energy and cognitive performances. Fights inflammation, and neutralizes free radicals in the body.
-L-Theanine: Found in green tea, increases serotonin levels. Encourages a sense of calm.
- Rebalance work and home
It is important to have some play in your life. If you are spending too much time at the office or on your computer working, intentionally carve out time to be outside, play a sport or a board game, or enjoy fun time with others, or alone!
- Write it down
Writing down what your stressors are is a good approach. So is writing down what you are grateful for. Gratitude may help relieve stress by helping you to focus on what is positive in your life. Find a journal, or check out The Artists Way, a beautiful self discovery journal.
- Do something that makes you happy
Call your friend, or write a love note to a loved one. Maybe order your favorite latte and walk on the beach, or get your hair or nails done, a massage, or reflexology. You can read a good book, play or snuggle with your pet, or watch a funny movie! Anything that boosts your mood and gives you a sense of ease and joy is a beautiful way to reduce stress. It really can come down to the small things.
Remember to rest, take care of yourself, and learn to trust and honor what your body may be telling you. This can be hard work, but it is worth it in the long run.
Remember to smile today and do something that makes YOU happy <3Article Author: Devan G