Everyone experiences stress. Sometimes it can help you focus and get the task at hand done. But when stress is frequent and intense, it can strain your body and make it impossible to function. Finding effective ways to deal is crucial to living well. Printable Version at the bottom of this page.
How Stress Affects You
Stress affects your entire body, mentally as well as physically. Some common signs include:
When experiencing long-term stress, your brain is exposed to increased levels of a hormone called cortisol. This exposure weakens your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick.
Stress can contribute to worsening symptoms of your mental illness. For example, in schizophrenia, it can encourage hallucinations and delusions, while in bipolar disorder, it can trigger episodes of both mania and depression. Knowing what situations may cause it is the first step in coping with this very common experience.
When You Are Most Vulnerable to Stress
People are most susceptible to stress when they are:
Everyone has his own threshold. Certain things that may upset you out might not even make one of your friends raise an eyebrow. Some people are affected when they experience large crowds and noisy environments, while others react to silence and free time.
Ways to Reduce Stress
Developing a personalized approach to reducing stress can help you manage your mental health condition and improve your quality of life. Once you've learned what your triggers are, experiment with coping strategies. Some common ones include:
If the steps you've taken aren't working, it may be time to share with your mental health professional. He or she can help you pinpoint specific events that trigger you and help you create an action plan to change them.
Interventions to Manage Stress
These days it’s hard not to get overwhelmed occasionally. Between juggling work, family, and other commitments, you can become too stressed out and busy. But you need to set time aside to unwind or your mental and physical health can suffer.
Learning how to manage your stress takes practice, but you can -- and need to -- do it. Here are 10 ways to make it easier.
1. Re-balance Work and Home
All work and no play? If you’re spending too much time at the office, intentionally put more dates in your calendar to enjoy time for fun, either alone or with others. Break down bigger problems into smaller parts. Take one step at a time.
2. Positive Self-Talk
Let’s be honest, we all talk to ourselves! Sometimes we talk out loud, but usually we do it in our heads. Self-talk can be positive (“I can do this” or “everything will be OK”) or negative (“I’ll never get better” or “I’m so stupid”). Negative self-talk increases stress. Positive self-talk can help you calm down and manage stress. With practice, you can learn to shift negative thoughts to positive ones.
Working out regularly is one of the best ways to relax your body and mind. Plus, exercise will improve your mood. But you must do it often for it to pay off.
So how much should you exercise every week?
Work up to 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise like brisk walks or 75 minutes of a more vigorous exercise like swimming laps, jogging or other sports.
Focus on setting fitness goals you can meet so you don’t give up. Most of all remember that doing any exercise is better than none.
4.Relax Your Muscles
When you’re stressed, your muscles get tense. You can help loosen them up on your own and refresh your body by:
Stopping and taking a few deep breaths can take the pressure off you right away. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel once you get good at it. Just follow these 5 steps:
Eating a regular, well-balanced diet will help you feel better in general. It may also help control your moods. Your meals should be full of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein for energy. And don’t skip any. It’s not good for you and can put you in a bad mood, which can actually increase your stress.
Modern life is so busy, and sometimes we just need to slow down and chill out. Look at your life and find small ways you can do that. For example:
8.Take a Break
You need to plan on some real downtime to give your mind time off from stress. If you’re a person who likes to set goals, this may be hard for you at first. But stick with it and you’ll look forward to these moments. Restful things you can do include:
9.Make Time for Hobbies
You need to set aside time for things you enjoy. Try to do something every day that makes you feel good, and it will help relieve your stress. It doesn’t have to be a ton of time -- even 15 to 20 minutes will do. Relaxing hobbies include things like:
10.Talk About Your Problems
If things are bothering you, talking about them can help lower your stress. You can talk to family members, friends, a trusted clergyman, your doctor, or a therapist.
And you can also talk to yourself. It’s called self-talk and we all do it. But in order for self-talk to help reduce stress you need to make sure it’s positive and not negative.
So, listen closely to what you’re thinking or saying when you’re stressed out. If you’re giving yourself a negative message, change it to a positive one. For example, don’t tell yourself “I can’t do this.” Tell yourself instead: “I can do this,” or “I’m doing the best I can.”
11.Go Easy on Yourself
Accept that you can’t do things perfectly no matter how hard you try. You also can’t control everything in your life. So do yourself a favor and stop thinking you can do so much. And don’t forget to keep up your sense of humor. Laughter goes a long way towards making you feel relaxed.
12.Eliminate Your Triggers
Figure out what are the biggest causes of stress in your life. Is it your job, your commute, your schoolwork? If you’re able to identify what they are, see if you’re able to eliminate them from your life, or at least reduce them.
If you can’t identify the main causes of your stress, try keeping a stress journal. Make note of when you become most anxious and see if you can determine a pattern, then find ways to remove or lessen those triggers.
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