Stress is an inevitable part of life. Anything that causes you to feel physical or emotional tension is considered to be a source of stress. Some common examples are demanding jobs, dealing with finances, and dealing with any kind of difficult situation. When stress occurs as a burst that results in avoiding danger or completing a required task quickly, it is considered to be beneficial, while prolonged stress is considered to be detrimental. Unfortunately for most people, stress tends to be the latter.
Constant stress has been proven to negatively affect both your physical and mental health. Long-term stress can cause problems such as skin and hair problems, gastrointestinal issues, cardiovascular disease, sexual dysfunction, and mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and personality disorders.
To prevent the stress of daily life from destroying your physical and/or mental health, here are ten tips for dealing with stress:
Recognize stress before you break
Many people have become so accustomed to the signs of stress that they don’t even register that they are stressed until they have hit their breaking point. The sooner you recognize you are stressed, the sooner you can work to manage it before it manages you. Some common indicators of stress to pay attention to include: difficulty relaxing, feeling easily agitated, feeling overwhelmed, headaches, low energy, stomach, insomnia, grinding your teeth, racing thoughts, forgetfulness, pessimism, inability to focus, nervous behaviors, changes in appetite, or avoiding responsibilities.
Identify your stressors
Another part of recognizing stress is recognizing the things that cause your stress. Certain stressors are common among many people, while others may be specific to you. When you start to notice the symptoms of stress, take a brief moment to breathe and think about what is causing those symptoms. Then, try to find a way to reduce or eliminate the cause.
Accept that there are things you cannot control
For most, this tip is much easier said than done. Nevertheless, there are certain things in life that you simply have no control over. Realizing and accepting this can decrease your stress levels and allow you to focus your energy elsewhere. If this is something you struggle with, talk therapy may be beneficial.
Manage your time
In some cases, stress can come from feeling overwhelmed with the amount of things that need to get done by a certain time. In these cases, the best way to manage your stress is to break down large tasks into smaller tasks, then determine what is the best way to use your time to accomplish these tasks. For some, this may take some practice, but learning how to manage your time can help decrease your stress levels.
Work out regularly
Regular workouts can help alleviate muscle tension, improve your mood, and relax your body. It can also help if you are having trouble relaxing or sleeping. However, you must get enough exercise to experience its benefits. It is recommended to complete 2.5 hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week.
Give yourself a break
Part of being extremely efficient is knowing when you need to not be efficient at all. Giving yourself a break allows your body and mind to rest and reset for the next bout of productiveness. If you are goal-oriented, make it a goal to work in a break every now and then. The key to downtime is finding something that relaxes you so that you can distract yourself from stress. Some activities can include: listening to music, hiking or walking outside, prayer, yoga, or meditation.
Do things that make you happy
Unfortunately, we may find ourselves always doing things for other people rather than for ourselves. As generous as this may be, it is important to make yourself happy as well. Therefore, you should set aside some time to do something that is enjoyable. This time can be as little as 15 minutes or as long as a whole day.
Learn to Set Limits
Not establishing limits leaves you open to overcommitting and overworking yourself, which will inevitably stress you out. Setting limits for yourself can help you to politely turn down extra assignments or requests that will bring excess stress.
Find a way to laugh
Laughing releases endorphins, which will improve your mood and make you feel happier. Although it can be challenging during stressful times, try to see the humor in the situation. You can also watch comedy shows, listen to a funny podcast, or browse the web for funny memes or videos.
This may be hard for some people to hear, but that “lifesaving” coffee you drink every morning may actually be doing more harm than good. Coffee contains large amounts of caffeine that can amplify anxiety, raise your blood pressure, and make you feel more stressed overall. If you must drink something in the morning, it is recommended to drink tea. It still has caffeine, but much lower levels.
While stress will continue to be your constant companion as you move through life, knowing how to better deal with stress will help to preserve your physical and mental health. Although ten tips for dealing with stress were provided, it is important to evaluate these tips to determine which ones work best for you. They all may be helpful, while only certain ones may actually prove to help you manage your stress. If you are trying or have tried these tips and you are still struggling with excessive feelings of stress, then you may want to schedule a consultation with a licensed mental health professional for further advice.
Dr. Miller is trained in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is also trained in Anesthesia and Pain Management. Because of her broad experience, Dr. Miller is uniquely qualified to treat psychological trauma, depression and anxiety that can occur as a result of injury or disability. For more information, schedule a consultation at NJ Family Psychiatry & Therapy.