Stress, closely associated with anxiety and depression, is increasingly becoming a common social problem. Currently, stress and related anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million adults every year. Like any other health problem, stress can strike anytime. While stress can be treatable, less than half of the reported cases get sufficient health guidance. Unfortunately, without proper management of initial symptoms, the symptoms can worsen, going beyond mental effects to physical problems. To avoid being overwhelmed by stress, below are several helpful tips to fight with stress.
1. Engage in Physical Activities
Stress often leads to a surge in stress hormones, which are cortisol and adrenaline in the body. Popularly known as “fight or flight” hormones, their production initiates a protection mechanism that protects the body from harm. However, modern era stress may not be solved by fight or flight situations. As such, the best way to alleviate stress is by engaging in physical exercise, which can act as an alternative that metabolizes the stress hormones produced by the body.
That said, consider taking a walk or jog around anytime you feel tensed or stressed. Besides, include some physical activities in your daily routine, regardless of whether you are under stress or not. Doing this will restore the mind and body, keeping you calm and in a relaxed state. That aside, engaging in regular activities will not only alleviate your stress but also promote the quality of your sleep.
2. Avoid Alcohol, Nicotine, and Caffeine
Most people find themselves indulging in binge drinking anytime they are under stressful situations, thinking they are relaxing. Contrary to such beliefs, taking lots of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine may not be a good choice for fighting stress. Nicotine and caffeine are known stimulants that can increase the stress levels, rather than reducing. On the other hand, alcohol is a potent depressant when taken in large quantities and a stimulant in small amounts.
Bearing this in mind, drinking less or excessive alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine when looking to alleviate stress is not helpful. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks and opt for natural fruit juices, water, and herbal teas to keep your body better hydrated. This will also enable your body to cope with stress better.
That aside, avoid heavy intake or reduce taking refined sugars. Sugars from savory foods, such as bread and salad dressings, are contaminated, leading to energy crashes, making the body easily tired and irritable. Try maintaining a well-balanced diet by taking nutritious foods as you fight stress.
3. Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are known and medically recommended methods of alleviating stress. The basis of relaxing is focusing your energy back to your body. This makes it possible to develop an awareness of your inner tensions and find ways of relieving them. Unfortunately, relaxation is a skill which you should learn and improve with more practice. Besides, the presence of many relaxation techniques makes it difficult to identify one that suits your situation.
However, you shouldn’t necessarily engage in complicated relaxation techniques to relieve your stress. A common and easy relaxation method is breathing to relax. Breathing deeply is a good way of reducing stress in the body. For this, start with slow but deep breaths through the nose. Try drawing the air straight into the stomach then breathe out slowly through the mouth. You can repeat the procedure ten times any time you feel stressed or several times daily.
Another easy and effective alternative for those stressed while working or in public places is clenching the body while consciously standing and relaxing. While the result is not immediately satisfying, it is a good way to achieve progressive relaxation and relieve tension.
4. Get More Sleep
The sleep-stress relationship is a vicious cycle that can get worse. While stress can lead to loss of sleep, lack of sleep is a key cause of stress as well. Stressful situations often make it difficult to fall into a deep sleep, which is essential for body repair and restoration. Generally, if you are fighting with stress, you will have less sleep efficiency.
Several psychological changes impair the normal sleep-stress relationship. For instance, increased levels of cortisol levels raise the blood pressures and heart rate. This contradicts the normal body functioning, where cortisol levels drop in the evening as the body naturally prepares to sleep. Increased cortisol levels in the evening or at night interfere with melatonin release, a crucial hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
That said, you should find ways to enhance your sleep. Most people rely on sleep medication when stressed. However, such medications may affect your sleep cycle after your stressors are eliminated. As such, find alternative methods to maximize relaxation before sleeping. For instance, ensure your bedroom meets all the necessary conditions for a good nights’ sleep by eliminating items that can remind you of stress.
Other ideas to improve sleep are avoiding evening caffeine, avoiding mentally draining work hours before bedtime, taking a warm bath, and developing a regular sleep schedule.
5. Talk it Out
In some cases, seeking external help can help you feel better. You can have a chat with your close friends or seek professional help from a psychologist. Talking can be effective as it distracts you from stressful thoughts and releases some tension. Stressful situations can easily cloud your mental health, affecting your judgment, which prevents you from understanding things clearly. Discussing with a friend, colleague, or therapist can help uncover potential solutions to your problems. That aside, healthy conversations with friends often leads to unexpected laughs, which can be relieving.
6. Have a Stress Journal
Embracing the use of a stress diary is prudent for individuals with recurring stress. If you fall in this fold, a stress journal becomes a reliable stress management tool that helps you identify specific situations that lead to stress. For each episode, note the time, date, and place it occurred. You should also note the activities you were engaging in and how you felt emotionally and physically.
From various experiences, rate your stress episodes on a scale of your choice. Doing this will help you avoid similar stressful situations and learn better coping mechanisms.
7. Manage Your Time
Managing time is an effective stress management strategy for individuals whose stress is directly caused by overloaded schedules. If you have a lot to cover in your to-do list, it is important to set a schedule based on priorities. Since you can’t handle all your tasks at once, diarize and prioritize your activities.
List all the things you should do in order of priority. Identify the tasks that you can do personally and those that can be delegated. Also, note the tasks that can be done later. Doing this eliminates the constant pressure of completing everything, which is a common cause of stress in workplaces.
Understand and Manage Your Stress Effectively
Getting to know what causes your stress is the first step towards winning your fight with stress. Be it bills, family responsibilities, or work, identifying a specific cause can help you implement effective stress management strategies. Apart from the options mentioned above, you should consider listening to your favorite music and doing what you love. This helps in taking away the stressful thoughts by keeping your mind occupied and heightens your emotions.