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I have spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks discussing how to manage your holiday stress. But I thought it would be good to have a stress primer about stress in general. Don’t worry – I have another post planned that looks at mindfulness and stress coming up soon.
Stress and the Body
Due to the hectic pace of modern life, it has become increasingly difficult to avoid stressful situations in and out of the home. Common sources of stress include financial hardships, issues at work, unsuccessful relationships, and familial obligations. Individuals from all stages of life experience stress to varying degrees. However, while we don’t usually think of stress in positive terms, we often fail to really examine the physical toll it takes on our bodies.
Physical Symptoms of Stress
Stress can result in a number of physical ailments. As a matter of fact, one of the most widely-reported symptoms of stress is insomnia. Individuals experiencing stress frequently have a hard time falling or staying asleep. Over time, this can lead to fatigue, which can impact one’s ability to concentrate or focus.
Acute stress, which is a short-term response to agitating or alarming stimuli, can also trigger panic and asthma attacks in those that are predisposed to those conditions. Other physical manifestations of stress include headaches, muscular pain, and chest aches—all of which have the potential to disrupt our everyday performance in the home or workplace.
Other physical manifestations of stress can include ringing in the ears or incredibly low energy. Forgetfulness, an increased or decreased appetite, stomach problems, constipation, and nausea are also quite common. If you find that you’re experiencing several of these on a regular basis, your assumption that it is stress is quite plausible. You may need to follow up with your healthcare provider to make sure there are no other causes.
Other Possible Symptoms
First of all, you‘ll want to assess any emotional symptoms you have. Many of these resemble those of depression. These include moodiness, restlessness, and a feeling of being overwhelmed and completely out of control. Stress also manifests itself in feelings of loneliness and worthlessness that simply won’t go away. Besides these, a strong desire to avoid the company of others and difficulty focusing on tasks may be present.
More severe symptoms include an increase in anxiety levels and a lot of guilt—some people may even experience suicidal thoughts. Again, these serious symptoms may require a visit to your physician especially as they become more significant, concerning, or interfere more with your life.
Signs You Might See
As for the symptoms that are visible to the naked eye, there are a few that you’ll want to pay close attention to, in order to help you figure out just what’s going on with you.
You should be on the lookout for panic attacks that often manifest themselves through trembling lips, shaking hands, frequent blushing, or some sweating. You may also experience a dry mouth, sweaty hands, or any kind of sudden muscle spasm. Aside from these, you might break out in hives and get unexplained rashes or itchiness. A clenched jaw and grinding teeth will also let you know that something’s not right. These are all signs that are difficult to miss. If you were wondering all this time what’s behind them, now you have a better idea of what it could be.
Initially, recognizing the signs of stress might not be the most comforting thing. However, it’s important that you know what you’re dealing with in order to find the best way to treat it.
How Can Chronic Stress Affect You?
Chronic stress is the outcome of a prolonged state of emotional distress. Symptoms of chronic stress include backaches, abdominal soreness, disrupted sleep and migraines. More worryingly, chronic stress can increase one’s risk of developing more serious long-term physical disorders.
Chronic stress can heighten one’s chances of developing cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of death in many countries. It has also been found to aggravate heart disease symptoms and can contribute to the risk of stroke and hypertension. Likewise, the immune system can also be hampered by chronic stress. Studies have found that, after a period of time, chronic stress weakens the immune system. This can leave the body susceptible to illnesses.
Natural Ways You Can Reduce Stress
It’s often believed that nature gives us the best remedies, so here are some simple and natural ways to try to relieve and reduce stress.
Physical activity can involve a number of things. You can swim, skate, ski, or bike. These are just a few of the many different ways you can stay physically active. When you move your body and work your muscles, your body responds by increasing oxygen flow to the brain. Exercising regularly can improve the overall health of your brain and reduce stress, even if you only exercise 30 minutes a day.
A Good Night’s Sleep
Many people underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep, but it’s very important for everyday life. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night is ideal for the average adult, whereas children and teenagers will likely need more. Sleep will also improve your learning and memory. While you sleep, your body repairs itself and clears the waste from your brain. Getting enough sleep every night can improve your overall health and decrease stress. If sleep continues to be a problem, you may have to consult a health care professional for help.
A Balanced Diet
Sometimes it’s difficult to eat healthy food when fast food is readily available. Try taking some time out of your day to cook a healthy meal instead of eating out. Remember to drink plenty of water. When you drink water, your kidneys are able to flush out more toxins and make your kidneys work more efficiently. Fast food consumption can lead to a number of medical problems including obesity and heart disease. Your brain needs certain nutrients to function normally, and you can reduce stress overall by maintaining a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water.
As simple as it sounds, doing breathing exercises can help you relax and unwind after a difficult day. One of the most effective exercises is to breathe in deeply for seven seconds, hold for three seconds, and exhale slowly over eight seconds. This exercise will help slow your heart rate and relax your muscles and can even help you get to sleep easier.
Finding Other Ways to Relax
Beyond the breathing exercises, you can find other works to specifically relax.
Meditation: You can relax by taking your breathing exercises further. Meditation is a great way to lower your blood pressure, relax your mind, and reduce stress. How you choose to meditate is up to you. Some people like to sit down on a hard floor with their legs crossed. Others enjoy lying in a dark, cool room. The key to restful meditation is to remove yourself from distractions and breathe deeply. You can recite a positive phrase or mantra to help reduce stress if you would lik.
Make a Cup of Tea: Caffeine-free tea is ideal. A hot cup of tea can reduce stress levels. Especially if you choose a cup of tea with mood-enhancing scents like citrus, mint, or lavender. Curl upon the couch with your tea and sip your way to stress-free bliss.
Draw Yourself a Bubble Bath: Indulge in some quality” me time” with a warm bubble bath. Turn the lights down low or light a candle. Soak up the suds until your body feels relaxed. Some people find classical music to be a nice touch. Others enjoy complete silence. A bubble bath is a simple thing that can
Find a Way to Laugh: A great comedy or funny book can lift your spirits and reduce stress. This is because laughter truly is the best medicine. There’s scientific evidence that laughing reduces stress level and alleviates tension. So find something or someone to laugh with, and you’ll be on your way to relieving stress.
Break Out the Yoga Mat: If all else fails, stretch your stress away. Yoga combines meditation, deep breathing, and physical activity into one great stress-busting activity. You don’t need a class or a pricey video. YouTube has a lot of free yoga tutorials, and you can use a blanket or towel in place of a mat.
What If It Doesn’t Work?
We have looked at some of the options that you can try before going to the next level of management.
However, for those who have tried every method to reduce stress, taking a prescription drug may very well be the last option. However, the use of these medications does have side effects. But with proper doctor’s advice, the use of safe and proven drugs may help people who need fast relief.
For most people, medications are truly the last resort. Other methods of stress relief often offer some help. While attempting natural remedies is a great way to start, don’t be afraid to get professional help. Issues like suicidal thoughts and chronic insomnia require professional assistance.
‘Til Next Time!
Loving Life–The Reboot!
This article provides general information and discussion about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this article, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. Consult your own physician for any medical issues that you may be having.