Stress. It’s everywhere.
Some stress can actually be good for us. However, too much stress can be harmful to the body and may even have long term effects. Therefore, the goal is to learn what your stressors are, how to eliminate the unnecessary ones, and stress relief techniques for the rest.
But first, what exactly is stress?
Stress is your mind and body’s reaction to a real or imagined event, threat or change. This includes your body’s mental, emotional and physical response to any situation that you see as new, frightening, or exciting.
Although like I said, not all stress is harmful, the majority of people are negatively effected by stress and their own thoughts every day. However, a balance of stress can actually help you lose fat and increase productivity.
There are two things combined that decide how a certain stressor will affect you:
- Successful prediction; being able to predict what is going to happen in the situation. Which means, if you believe you are able to predict what will happen the situation seems less stressful and therefore has less negative impact.
- Your perception of control over the stressor. This doesn’t mean you have to have full control, just that you feel you are prepared. This feeling of control also allows you to view a situation as less stressful and therefore decreases it’s negative impact.
However, when you are caught off guard or surprised, that is typically when overwhelm and too much stress arises. The feeling of not being in control typically leads to feelings of vulnerability, which leads to a negative stress reaction.
Long Term Effects of Stress:
Long term stress leads to excessive secretion of stress hormones which can have significant impacts on the body. Chronic secretion reduces fat metabolism, which not only means your body is more likely to store fat, but also leads to fatty blockages in arteries. This is why stress can lead to weight gain, heart attacks and strokes. Moreover excessive stress hormone secretion can damage the lining of the arteries, weaken your immune system and also impair memory. Unfortunately these are not the only negative impacts of stress, but rather than stressing you out with all of them, I decided to cut the list short. Bad joke? Haha ok sorry.
Long story short, too much stress is a lot for your body to handle.
So in order to enjoy the positive benefits of a healthy stress balance it is important to find ways to cope with and reduce your overall stress.
How to reduce stress by managing or eliminating certain stressors:
The first step in managing your stressors is to start paying attention.
Pay attention to what causes you stress and if it is under your control or not. Then you can figure out how to deal with them from there.
Is it something that you have control of?
Do whatever you can in order to handle the situation.
If it’s a project, work deadline, event, whatever, just do what you can. For instance, if you know that big deadlines always stress you out, take control of the situation by getting started. Don’t wait until the last minute to start your project. Beat the procrastination and get started as soon as possible. This will keep the workload manageable, and will keep you from getting stressed as the deadline approaches.
If your stress comes from how overwhelming a large task can be, this is again something that is under your control. Therefore, break down the large task into smaller, manageable chunks. Make a plan, set small goals, and complete smaller tasks that will help you accomplish the main goal.
But whatever you do, don’t put it off. The more you procrastinate the more overwhelming it will feel and the more stress you will feel.
Is it something that’s out of your control?
Even better. Just stop worrying about it.
If you really do have zero control over a situation, what good is it going to do you and your body to stress over it? No good at all. Refer back to negative side effects to stress if you need a refresher.
So, eliminate it.
All you can do is wait.
Therefore, instead of worrying while you wait, do yourself a favour and imagine the best possible outcome of the situation. This will help to decrease your stress, and increase your mood. In the end, the majority of things that we stress about and fear don’t even happen. So, why waste so much of your precious energy focusing on hypotheticals that will only upset you, and are very unlikely?
The Left Over Stress
By now you know how to manage or eliminate your stress depending on your control over it. However, I am human too and I know that we will always have and be stressed. So, now what?
The best move from here is to start implementing some stress relief techniques. There are so many things you can do to help reduce stress and cope. Which is great, because not everything will work for everyone.
Therefore, I have put together a list of some ways to relieve stress. Feel free to try as many different techniques that appeal to you until you find what works.
Stress Relief Techniques:
- Social Support. Asking for help and talking about your stressors can alleviate some stress. Moreover, just being with loved ones is good stress relief. When we hug someone, cuddle a pet, or even just feel that someone is there for you, it releases the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin lowers both our heart rate and our cortisol (stress hormone) levels, it is known as the love hormone, and it really does work wonders.
- Exercise regularly. Even something as low impact as a thirty minute walk a day can clear your head and improve your mood. Furthermore, exercise can actually release endorphins, which are our feel good hormones, also known as our bodies ‘natural high.’
- Write. Whether it’s writing in a journal, or just writing lists, both help with stress relief. By writing goals, accomplishments, things you are grateful for, or positives of the day you force yourself to be optimistic. Focusing on the positives is a great way to relieve stress and make yourself feel better. Furthermore, writing lists like things you must get done today/ this week, as opposed to things that are less of a priority now, help to get you focused. This allows you to keep your priorities in line and get done what needs to be on time. Therefore, giving you more of a feeling of control.
- Yoga, meditation and/ or deep breathing techniques. All of these help to calm the mind and decrease blood pressure and heart rate. They all will decrease your stress levels and give you a clearer head to focus when you need to.
- Listen to music that makes you feel good. Sometimes all you need is some feel good music to relieve stress and improve your mood. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to turn on an upbeat playlist and dance around your room and tell me you don’t feel any better. Plus, on the science side, listening to things you love releases feel- good neurochemicals like dopamine which can make you feel better and less stressed. Therefore, science.
- Laugh. Laughing also releases hormones that relax the brain and reduce stress. So whether it’s a funny show you watch on TV every day, or talking to a friend with a sense of humour, make it a goal to laugh every day. The more the better.
Less stress, for a better life.
Of course there are many more ways to reduce stress, those are just some of the ones I use and know work for me. So, experiment, try some, google other techniques if none of these tickle your fancy. But whatever you do, make it a priority to manage your stress. Your future self will thank you. And so will your current self, actually.
In the end, remember, it’s almost never as bad as you think it is. So do what you can do, stay positive, and get it done.