Simple steps to conquer your stress, worry, and anxiety
Stress and anxiety are a part of daily living. You might feel overwhelmed and overloaded. You might be worried about your health, finances, or relationships. Everyone experiences stress of some sort daily. It is therefore important to have an arsenal of tips and strategies for effectively coping with stress.
The Stress Response - Bad Stress, Good Stress
When you are under stress your body releases chemicals that can affect various parts of your body, including your vital organs. Stress can cause an increased heart rate, muscle tension, and insulin secretion. Stress can also decrease your immune response and libido.
On the other hand, stress is sometimes helpful. A stress response can give you an extra surge of energy to get a job done or alert you and help your body respond to a possible danger (i.e., flight or fight response). You experience stress even under happy circumstances such as when you receive a promotion or give birth to a child.
Once the feelings of stress pass, your body’s chemicals return to normal levels.
The danger, however, is that experiencing stress on a consistent basis can lead to health problems and burn-out.
How to Relieve Stress -- What to Do
Prolonged stress is not healthy for the body. However, there are a number of things that can help you deal with your stress and find relief. Find what works best for you to help you cope. Here are some ideas:
- Do what you can to reduce or remove the stress. Uncertainty and a lack of control play a big part in stress. If you worry about your finances, this might mean getting organized and speaking to a financial planner. If you are anxious about a health concern, see your doctor.
- Build your support “reserves” ahead of time (or start now). Cultivate supportive relationships. Save money for a rainy day.
- Take care of yourself. Pace yourself. Know your limitations and avoid taking on too much. Hold realistic expectations. If things don’t go perfectly, do be hard on yourself. You are doing the best that you can.
- Choose an encouraging mantra or quote about stress. Silently repeating a short phrase such as “this too shall pass” or “things will get better” can help you persevere.
- Express yourself. By talking, crying, or laughing, let your feelings out in safe way to relieve stress. Talk with trusted family or friends. Speak with a counselor or clergy member to regain your calm. Write whatever is bothering you down on paper. This might help you better understand the stress you feel. You may be able to find sources of stress so that you can find better ways for coping with stress.
- Meditate. When trying to relieve stress from your life, incorporating meditation can help you focus on the present moment. You will be able to release worrisome thoughts about your past or future.
Meditation is as simple as sitting in your favorite chair and focusing on your breath as you slowly breathing in and out. Guided imagery which is a form of mediation can help you to feel calm. Find an audiotape or a teacher to guide you into relaxation.
Yoga and tai chi are techniques that combine physical exercise with meditation and are excellent for coping with stress. Once you learn these techniques, you will be able to practice them at home or wherever you are to relieve the stress you are experiencing.
- Exercise or do something fun. For a short while, take a "stress vacation." Do a hobby. Listen to your favorite music or watch a funny movie. Even cleaning the house or working in the yard might help. The point is to do something instead of allowing your worrisome thoughts to turn over again and again in your mind.
Try this exercise to relieve stress:
- From a standing position with your feet about 12 inches apart, bend forward from the waist with your knees slightly bent.
- Dangle your arms in front of you (like a rag doll).
- Breathe slowly and deeply as you roll up to a standing position. Slowly roll up, vertebra by vertebra, until you are standing. Let your head come up last.
- In a standing position, breathe in slowly and deeply.
- Bend forward again and repeat, returning to a standing position.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Food is fuel for your body. Sugary and caffeinated food and drinks may offer a temporary surge of energy but can end up making you feel tired.
- Sleep well. Get adequate rest each night. When your schedule allows, try waking up without an alarm clock to gauge how much sleep you actually need. Enough sleep helps you recharge your batteries and reset your immune response system so that you can better face the next day. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages in the hours before bed as they can adversely affect your sleep. If worry is keeping you up at night, try relaxation methods or talk to your doctor.
Are You Stressed or Depressed?
Perhaps you have tried these tip and tricks to manage your stress. However, sometimes what feels like stress might be depression. Consult your doctor if you are taking steps to manage your stress yet still consistently see these symptoms for longer than two weeks: You notice changes in your sleeping or eating patterns, or your energy level; you have thoughts of death; or you are unable to concentrate or enjoy your activities.
Remember, depression is not a sign of weakness. It is a medical condition that can be successfully remedied with appropriate help.
If you are feeling stressed out, try these tips and action steps to relieve the stress you are experiencing.
Conquer the anxiety and worry you feel so that you can once again experience the joy of living.
Source: Adapted from Conquering Stress, Kaiser Permanente