Put your hand up if you have never experienced stress before?
*Looks around the room and sees no hands*
Most people have experienced stress at some point or other, but how well do you really understand it, its impacts and how to combat its effects?
By definition, stress is your body’s reaction to stimuli, situations or events that place you under pressure or make you feel threatened. You can feel particularly threatened by the demands you face in life when you feel they go beyond your ability to cope.
Although small amounts of stress are naturally good for you to help you feel motivated and respond accordingly to daily stressors, too much stress over time can have damaging effects on your mental and physical health.
High levels of stress over a long period of time is costly to your overall well-being. it has been linked to:
1. Chronic muscle pain
2. Chronic fatigue and sleep deprivation
3. High blood pressure and increased risk of stroke/heart attacks
4. Heightened susceptibility to disease and infection
5. Organ failure
1. Emotional difficulties (anxiety, mood disorders, and anger problems)
2. Memory loss
3. Attention difficulties
4. Mental health disorders (depression, OTSD, eating disorders, and anxiety)
1. Social withdrawal/isolation
2. Tension within friendships/relationships
3. Struggle with meeting work/school needs
This is not an exhaustive list.
Just because stress has costly impacts, does not mean it’s not all doom and gloom.
Here’s 6 top tips to help with managing stress and minimising these negative impacts:
1. Challenge your negative thoughts
Write down the negative thoughts that come to mind and challenge them by asking “do I have any evidence to support this thought?” Or “will this matter in 5 years time?”
2. Use exercise and relaxation techniques
Engaging in physical activity and relaxation activities (such as deep breathing or stretching) can help to reverse the physical effects of stress, as the body releases endorphins (our feel-good hormone). Even if it’s a 10 minute activity a day, this can make a big difference.
3. Focus on what you can control
Spend 20 minutes doing a ‘brain dump’ where you can write down all of your thoughts and worries. Then cross off the things you can’t control and come up with solutions for the things that you can.
4. Book regular appointments with yourself
Make this an official appointment that you stick to (e.g. Friday 3pm) where you can check in and see how you are doing and what your mind/body needs.
5. Listen to your emotions
Your emotions are usually telling you something, so it's helpful to sit with the emotions and work through. For example, stress may be telling you to take things one step at a time, or sadness can be telling you that there is something missing.
6. Top up your well-being account
Actively do things that make you feel refreshed and energised. This could be a hobby or activity (e.g. singing or meditating), or even just making sure you are getting a good night’s rest. See blog: Your Well-being Bank Account, Explained for more details on how to top up your account
Start off by trying one of the tips and work your way through ones you have not tried already. Let us know which you find most useful to relieve your stress!
Words by Senada Murkelaj
Inside Out Well-being Team