First, let’s understand what stress is about!
The conversations around ways to manage stress generally picks up during stress awareness week, but the truth is that stress sticks around you 365 days a year. We all experience various levels of stress at every stage of our lives and it’s a perfectly natural process and can be a healthy reaction to an unexpected situation or challenge.
So how is stress caused? Scientifically speaking, your body’s adrenal glands pump ‘adrenaline’ that raises your heart rate, blood pressure and sugar levels, when faced with a stressful situation.
As part of a response to it, your adrenal cortex then releases ‘cortisol’. Cortisol is what helps you run away quickly from a wild and ferocious lion you may suddenly encounter in a jungle. When it starts becoming a regular habit despite the fact that there are no wild lions to run away from, it turns destructive.
That’s why, any level of stress that goes on for more than a few weeks can eventually take a toll on your health.
You can avoid falling prey to stress by learning healthy ways of stress management to manage it.
Learning how to recognize stress
The first step in effective stress management is recognizing that stress itself is a normal part of your life when it shows up. There are many emotions stirred up by stress. You could get angry or irritable because of a frustrating situation like driving through bumper-to-bumper traffic or losing sleep over an overnight presentation with a tight deadline.
Once you know what signals you need to look out for, you can gradually start to manage them.
Secondly, try and identify the source of the situations that cause you stress. These are what are known as ‘stressors’ and mostly revolve around your family, school, work, relationships, money, or health problems. Once you know the source of your stress, you can come up with ways to deal with your stressors.
There’s a flip side to stress too: although it’s largely seen as negative, stress can also come from positive changes in your life, like getting an unexpected promotion at work or becoming a proud father.
Simple stress buster tips to help you out:
Here are a couple of stress buster tips to manage stress to mark international stress awareness week. People respond to them with varying degrees, but try and see which are the ones that work for you:
- It’s not wrong to say ‘No’. If your stress comes from taking on too much at home or your workspace, learn to set limits. It could be spending extra late hours in the night beyond your designation to help out on a colleague’s project on a regular basis or missing your gym time or any other ‘me time’ activity like listening to music simply because there’s always work, work, work. Ask others for help when you need it. It’s tough but it’s also one of the best ways to manage stress.
- Make your ‘me-time’ a priority. When stress gets to you, switch to an enjoyable experience that picks you up such as reading a good book, listening to music, or having dinner with a friend. Or, focus your mind on a new hobby or class.
- Acceptance is key. One of the best stress relief habits you can develop, is to surrender to situations that are not in your control. Take for example the fact that you have to drive through rush hour. The solution: accepting it and replacing it with something worthwhile such as listening to a podcast while driving.
- Free yourself from negative thoughts. Whenever you can, distance yourself from the source of stress. For example, if your source of stress is a sudden family squabble over which place you want to visit during your vacation, just break away from the moment and go for a long drive or a walk instead!
- Get moving! Running or walking for at least half an hour every day, is one of the most proven ways to beat stress. Exercising helps your brain release endorphins that free built-up energy or frustration. The key is to discover a physical activity you enjoy, such as walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing.
- See things from another view. This is the classic ‘seeing the glass half full’ rather than ‘seeing the glass half empty’, when encountering a challenge. Simply replace your negative thoughts like “Why does everything go wrong with me?” with: “I can get through this!” It’s tough initially, but you can make it a habit.
- Breathe, relax. You can fuel your energy and well-being by practicing relaxation techniques from deep breathing and meditation to yoga and tai chi, to help slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
- Live outside your head, socialize! Spending time with your close circle of family and friends can make you feel better and forget about your stress. Confiding in a friend helps you iron out your problems.
- Catch enough zzzz time. Studies show that getting an average of 8 hours of sleep helps you sharpen your focus and fire you up with energy reserves to handle any challenge that may crop up, with a calm mind.
- Maintain a healthy diet. What you eat defines you. Replacing high-sugar snack foods with vegetables, high-fiber fruits, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy, and lean proteins, strengthen your constitution and mind.
Watch out for ‘instant’ stress relief measures:
Sometimes, your body can trick you into believing that certain instant, but unhealthy habits can help you relax. When you feel stressed, you may resort to escape from stress by adopting certain unhealthy behaviors which you may mistakenly perceive as your kind of ‘stress management’:
- Overeating and junk food intake
- Smoking cigarettes
- Drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Oversleeping or not catching enough sleep
These behaviours can help you feel better at first, but will end up hurting you more than helping you. As part of stress awareness month, we at HealthHub Clinics would like to share some insights on stress management that can help you understand more about it.
Apart from knowing about the right stress relief habits, if you are still battling stress and need someone to talk to, don’t wait for stress awareness month 2022 to pass you by! To know more, just speak with our psychiatrist at HealthHub Clinics on 8002344 or click here.