Health

Coping With Stress

Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is a natural reaction to many situations in life, such as work, family, relationships and money problems. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. Research has shown that stress can sometimes be positive. It can make you more alert and help you perform better in certain situations. However, stress has only been found to be beneficial if it is short-lived.

Excessive or prolonged stress can contribute to illness such as heart disease and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Too much untreated stress can cause potentially serious physical and mental health problems. The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload.

Signs and symptoms of stress overload cognitive symptoms:

* Memory problems * Inability to concentrate * Poor judgment * Seeing only the negative
* Anxious or racing thoughts * Constant worrying.

Emotional symptoms:
* Depression or general unhappiness * Anxiety and agitation * Moodiness, irritability, or anger * Feeling overwhelmed * Loneliness and isolation * Other mental or emotional health problems

Physical symptoms:
* Aches and pains * Diarrhea or constipation * Nausea, dizziness * Chest pain, rapid heart rate * Loss of sex drive * Frequent colds or flu Behavioral symptoms: * 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).

The good news is that in many cases, stress is manageable. With some patience and a few useful strategies, you can reduce your stress, whether it’s family stress or stress at the workplace. This means it is important to manage your stress and keep it at a healthy level to prevent long-term damage to your body and mind. Tips to help manage and reduce your stress levels.

1. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine
Avoid, or at least reduce, your consumption of nicotine and any drinks containing caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and so will increase your level of stress rather than reduce it. Swap caffeinated and alcoholic drinks for water, herbal teas, or diluted natural fruit juices and aim to keep yourself hydrated as this will enable your body to cope better with stress. You should also aim to avoid or reduce your intake of refined sugars – they are contained in many manufactured foods (even in savoury foods such as salad dressings and bread) and can cause energy crashes which may lead you to feel tired and irritable. In general, try to eat a healthy, well-balanced and nutritious diet.

2. Indulge in Physical Activity
Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body. When you feel stressed and tense, go for a brisk walk in fresh air. Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.

3. Get More Sleep
A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately though, stress also interrupts our sleep as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep. You should also aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.

4. Try Relaxation Techniques
Each day, try to relax with a stress reduction technique. There are many tried and tested ways to reduce stress so try a few and see what works best for you.

5. Talk to Someone
Just talking to someone about how you feel can be helpful. Talking can work by either distracting you from your stressful thoughts or releasing some of the built-up tension by discussing it.

6. Take Control
Stress can be triggered by a problem that may on the surface seem impossible to solve. Learning how to find solutions to your problems will help you feel more in control thereby lowering your level of stress.

8. Manage Your Time
At times, we all feel overburdened by our ‘To Do’ list and this is a common cause of stress. Accept that you cannot do everything at once and start to prioritise and diarise your tasks.

9. Learn to Say ‘No’
A common cause of stress is having too much to do and too little time in which to do it. And yet in this situation, many people will still agree to take on additional responsibility. Learning to say “No” to additional or unimportant requests will help to reduce your level of stress, and may also help you develop more self-confidence.

10. Rest If You Are Ill
If you are feeling unwell, do not feel that you have to carry on regardless. A short spell of rest will enable the body to recover faster.

11. Listen to music
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a stressful situation, try taking a break and listening to relaxing music. Playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body, can lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.

12. Eat right
Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related. When we’re overwhelmed, we often forget to eat well and resort to using sugary, fatty snack foods as a pick-me-up.

13. Laugh it off
Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy.

14. Drink tea
A large dose of caffeine causes a short-term spike in blood pressure. It may also cause your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to go into overdrive. Instead of coffee or energy drinks, try green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants.

– Editor

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