Stress Management

What is Stress?

Stress is the body’s response to a challenge or demand. Everyone experiences stress, which can be triggered by a range of events, from small daily hassles to major changes like a divorce or job loss. The stress response includes physical components such an elevated heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and more, mental components such as thoughts and personal beliefs about the stressor, and emotional responses including anxiety, fear, anger and more. Although we often think of it as being negative, stress can also come from positive changes in your life, like getting a promotion at work, having a baby, or experiencing something new.

How Can We Manage Stress in Healthy Ways?

Stress serves an important purpose as it enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to physical and mental health difficulties. Research suggests that increased stress levels over time can interfere with your ability to recover as easily with physical illness or can exacerbate a chronic medical condition. Chronic and/or highly stressful conditions can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health condition with higher rates of anxiety, depression, trauma-related issues, and even suicidal thoughts/attempts if left unresolved.   

While no one can avoid all stress, working to manage stress in healthy and adaptive ways not only helps to reduce/minimize the harmful effects stress can have on one’s overall health and functioning but it can also feel empowering to be able to implement effective coping strategies that embraces a balanced life that supports physical, mental, emotional, relational, social, and spiritual areas of life. 

 Below are some helpful Stress Management Tips:  

  • Strive for Balanced NutritionStriving for a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Exercise regularly. In addition to having physical health benefits, exercise has been shown to be a good stress reducer as serotonin, endorphins and other feel-good/neurochemicals are released when we exercise or are engaged in activity. 
  • Stop using tobacco and nicotine products. People who use nicotine often refer to it as a stress reliever. However, nicotine places more stress on the body by increasing physical arousal and reducing blood flow and breathing.
  • Do not misuse alcohol or use recreational drugs.  While temporary, the use of alcohol and/or recreational drugs can be a huge stress reliever; however, alcohol/substance abuse can produce the opposite effect of reducing a person’s ability to manage stress without the use of alcohol/drugs as neurochemically it becomes more and more dependent upon them for stress reduction.
  • Practice Relaxation/Meditation/Mindfulness. Taking the time to relax helps to manage stress and to protect the body from the effects of stress. You can choose from a variety of techniques, such as deep breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. There are also several online and smart phone apps that are great reinforcements such as Calm, Mindfulness, Simple Habit apps.
  • Reduce Stress Triggers. If you are like most people, your life may be filled with too many demands and too little time. Practicing time-management skills like asking for help when it’s appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and reserving time to take care of yourself is vital to your being successful in stress management.
  • Examine Your Values. The more your actions reflect your beliefs/values, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is. Use your values when choosing your activities.
  • Assert yourself. It’s okay to say “No” to demands on your time and energy that will place too much stress on you. You don’t have to always HAVE TO meet the expectations of others, especially when it compromises healthy boundaries and a balanced lifestyle.
  • Set Realistic Goals.   It’s okay—and even healthy—to realize you cannot be 100% successful at everything all the time. Be mindful of the things you can control and work on accepting the things that you can’t control.
  • Maintain Good Self-Worth. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.
  • Discover/Re-Discover You! Explore new hobbies/interests and/or find new ways to stay connected.
  • Seek out Support.  Get involved with a community support group to help you feel connected and not alone in your struggles.
  • Contact a Mental Health Provider.  We all are impacted by stress, and it is always a sign of strength to recognize when therapeutic support is beneficial. 
  • Contact your Primary Health Care Provider.  Maintain good collaboration with your Physician/PCP to practice preventative health as well as being proactive in addressing current health conditions.

 

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