Don't Stress. Do This Instead.
Stress is a part of everyone’s life According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is how the brain and body responds to an external cause1
. “Any type of challenge—such as performance at work or school, a significant life change, or a traumatic event—can be stressful.”2
Of course, all stress isn’t bad. A stressful moment can help you stay focused and even motivate you to give your best effort. But the kind of stress that affects your health is not good. In fact, stress can change your body, mood, and behavior in a many negative ways. These include 3
Effects on your body:
- Tension and migraine headaches
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Upset stomach
- Sleep problems
- Shortness of breath
Effects on your mood:
- Lack of motivation
Effects on your behavior:
- Changes in appetite
- Angry outbursts
- Social withdraw
- Sedentary behavior
In other words, stress can touch almost every area of your life. It can cause long-term effects and harm your health. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to manage your stress.
Try These Relaxation Techniques
There are strategies you can use at home to help manage and reduce stress. When you feel stress start to take hold, try one of these four relaxation techniques recommended by Harvard Health Publishing, a division of Harvard Medical School.4
It’s simple but powerful. Take long, slow, deep breathes. As you do so, disengage from distracting thoughts and focus instead on the breathing. It can be especially helpful for people with eating disorders but might not be appropriate if you have health problems such as respiratory ailments.
Meditation has become mainstream these days. The idea is to find a place where you can sit comfortably, focus on your breathing, and then concentrate your mind on the present. Purposefully avoid thinking about the past or the future. Mediation can be especially helpful for those struggling with anxiety or depression.
Yoga and tai chi
These ancient arts combine rhythmic breathing with poses and slow movements. Not only do they help you focus and distract from racing thoughts, yoga and tai chi can improve your flexibility and balance. This approach to stress relief is well suited to people who are already active. If you’re not active, have health problems or a disabling condition, you should check with your doctor before you try it.
Instead of letting stressful thoughts overwhelm you, imagine yourself in soothing places such as the beach or woods. Just the thought of a stress-free environment can help you relax your mind and ward off stressful thoughts. This can work even better if you choose somewhere personal to you.
How to Manage Stress in Everyday Life
There are a few activities you can add to your routine to help manage stress. Some of the most popular ones include5:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthy
- Find time to laugh
- Stay connected to family and friends
- Take up hobbies like reading, music or cooking
Some of these may seem quaint. But adding them to your daily routine can make a surprising difference and decrease your stress over time.
Managing Stress Using Cognitive Behavior Therapy
If your stress is so extreme that professional help is needed, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) might be an option. The idea behind this therapy is that changing your thoughts can change your emotions.6
CBT is a common type of talk therapy. According to Psychology Today, “The goal is understanding what happens in your brain and your body when emotions start to overwhelm you. Unlike other approaches, the source is not in your past but what happens in the present, in your brain.7”
You can even try to apply CBT on your own. Many workbooks are available to help you develop this approach and deal with your stress, anxiety and pain.
Don’t let the stress of day-to-day life get overwhelming. Add some of these techniques into your routine – it can make a huge difference. But if you’re still feeling overly stressed or anxious, definitely contact your doctor and seek outside help.