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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Deal With Stress the Healthy Way

How to Deal With Stress the Healthy Way

In the modern world, emotional stress has risen. Many people are either affected or infected with stress. It can be a sense of physical or emotional tension caused by certain internal and external factors, and many people simply don’t know how to deal with stress.

Stress is often produced by an event or thought that makes you feel angry, frustrated, or nervous. Whether you blame it on the psychological or social environment you’re exposing yourself to or the illness or medical problems you’re going through, us humans are always prone to stress.

Once you start experiencing stress, it initiates the flight and fight response due to a complex reaction caused by the endocrine and neurological systems. It leads to the production of catecholamines, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline[1]. They facilitate physical reactions that are associated with muscular action resulting in flight. These events may make you feel angry, frustrated, or nervous.

Consequently, stress demands that the body reacts to demand or change. Thus, it is just a normal feeling for humans. In some instances, it can be good as it will help someone in a time of danger or calamity, causing flight. However, if it lasts longer, it may be detrimental to your health.

2 Types of Stress

Acute Stress

This is a short term type of stress that goes away quickly. This type of stress can happen when you fight with a person, slam on the brakes, or go skiing. It helps you manage a certain situation that may endanger your life. It may also be experienced when one is too excited. It is normal to have such stress once in a while.

Short-term stress fades away quickly. It helps you deal with treacherous situations and may arise whenever you get excited or do something that involves adrenaline, so go easy on the sky diving.

Chronic Stress

Whenever the body system experiences prolonged stress levels, it may cause chronic stress. This type of stress can lead to severe health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, and destructive thoughts.

Chronic stress causes a rush in hormones; thus, there is lots of wear and tear on the body. It may cause more rapid aging, decreased immunity, and a higher likelihood of developing certain diseases.

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Chronic stress can be caused by a financial problem, toxic relationships, failures, failed marriage, or work. Unfortunately, all of us will likely experience one of these at some point, so it’s important to learn how to tackle this kind of stress before it does irreversible damage.

Can Stress Kill You?

Stress itself has no power over you. No matter if you are a small or severe stressor, your body will respond equally to the stress. This response doesn’t cause direct death, but it sure leads to certain health consequences over a period of time.

If you’re constantly experiencing stress, it may deteriorate your health and result in premature death. This could be because of a weakened cardiovascular system or unhealthy habits you adopt when in stress, such as smoking, alcohol abuse, overeating, etc. Therefore, it becomes paramount to manage the stress before it starts taking a toll on your health.

How to Know If Stress Is Affecting Your Health

Stress doesn’t become fatal all of a sudden. It will give you many alarms to remind you to act before it’s too late. When you start experiencing the signs mentioned below, take a hint that stress has started taking over your wellbeing and that you need to start focusing on how to deal with stress in a healthy way.

Physical Signs of Stress

When stress is prolonged without any relief, it can lead to distress. This is an adverse reaction. In most cases, it may affect the body’s balance and equilibrium[2].

This may lead to physical signs and symptoms, such as:

  • Upset stomach
  • Sleeping problems
  • Headaches
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Chest pain

More complicated stress levels may cause panic attacks, depression, as well as other types of anxiety. Studies have shown that stress can worsen certain types of diseases. Stress is also linked to suicide, cancers, accidents, heart disease, lung ailments cancer, and liver cirrhosis..

Emotional Signs of Stress

Depression

Depression is one of the major signs of stress. It is defined as a feeling that one experiences due to chronic stress or persistent low mood. It’s a feeling of hopelessness. Studies have shown that chronic stress can be linked to depression.

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It is also suggested that both acute and chronic stress predominantly affect women more than men. Depression affects mainly the working-age group due to the pressure caused by work and family life.

Anxiety

Research has found that stress can be related to anxiety and its disorders. It is mainly characterized by the fear of the unknown. When you’re dealing with chronic stress, even the smallest things tend to make you anxious. It can be a wedding, divorce, job loss or promotion, setback, and basic unpleasant situations you face in your day-to-day life.

Irritability

Anger and irritability are key signs of stress. Anger is linked to mental stress, anxiety, and heart attacks. Studies have shown that people, especially those with chronic stress levels, tend to get irritated very easily. Relaxation techniques, exercise, problem solving, and effective communication can help people manage anger under stress.

Low Sex Drive

People who suffer from chronic stress have shown low sex drive and intimacy levels. Chronic stress harms sex drive and arousal. This is brought about by high levels of cortisol. Research has shown that low libido and stress mainly affect women, but to some extent, it also affects men.

Memory and Concentration

Stress may also be characterized by low memory and concentration levels[3]. Research has found that chronic stress leads to loss of memory. If this goes on for long, it may affect long term memory. Certain painful, stressful events like grief affect some hormones that may affect how the brain works.

Compulsive Behavior

Compulsive behavior is highly linked to stress, and addiction stress can be aggravated and become dangerous when someone engages in certain behaviors. Stress may affect the way one usually reacts, which can lead to an unhealth addiction, such as substance abuse like alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and behavior such as shopping, porn, and gambling.

Mood Swings

Stress levels can cause mood swings. Each and every person has his or her own attitude towards things and their own perception levels. Stress can stop people from thinking clearly and get irritated at the smallest inconveniences. People can go from very happy to very sad in seconds if they are experiencing constant stress.

How to Deal With Stress in a Healthy Way

Managing stress is not something we should practice when our limit of toleration is exhausted. Instead, stress management should be incorporated in our day-to-day activities so that we can overcome it before it becomes harmful to our health.

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To start, let’s incorporate these healthy practices in our routine to deal with emotional and physical stress we go through.

1. Laugh

Whenever one is feeling anxious or stressed, it is very hard to laugh. Along with many other health benefits of laughing, it is a good remedy to relieve stress, as well. No matter how hard it may seem, try to get a good laugh in whenever you’re feeling stressed. Call a friend, watch a funny show, pull out an old photo-album, but don’t sit idle and overthink. Laughing relieves stress and tension by relaxing muscles as it boosts the immune system.

2. Meditation

Whenever you’re feeling stressed, don’t hesitate taking a break for a small meditation session. It can wipe away your stress and help you restore your inner peace and calmness. Even a 5-minute meditation break helps. It can eliminate the destructive thoughts and attain a positive attitude even in the worst situations.

A small meditation session can fill you with positive energy to carry out your day more calmly. It helps you gain new perspective about stressful situations and deal better with your problems.

3. Eat the Right Food

The food you eat has a huge impact on your mental health and stress levels. They can boost serotonin levels, which are responsible for calming the brain. Some foods may also reduce the adrenaline and cortisol levels, also known as stress hormones, in the body. Eating a healthy diet can effectively lower stress levels by boosting the immune system and reducing blood pressure.

Some good stress-busting foods include:

  • Fatty Fish
  • Spinach
  • Black Tea
  • Oranges
  • Avocados
  • Raw Veggies
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios

4. Spend Time With People Who Care

Getting social support from friends and relatives helps in getting over stressful times. Talk to them. Help them understand what you’re going through. They may or may not be able to solve your problems, but they won’t let you go through it alone. Having someone gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, especially during these hard times.

5. Write It Down

The other way to manage stress is penning down your feelings in a journal or a diary. In that case, you can also write down the things you are grateful for. Gratitude may help you cope with stress and anxiety by filling you with positive energy and things to count on.

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6. Drink Milk

Milk is a stress reliever, especially when a warm glass of milk is drunk before bedtime[4]. This is because it offers calcium, which helps treat anxiety and depression and has been shown to naturally relax the body.

7. Use Herbal Supplements

Several herbal supplements can be used to manage stress. They can help you improve your mental health, especially in those who have mild to moderate depression. These herbal supplements tend to reduce the anxiety produced by stress. Valerian root[5] is commonly used to manage stress as it has a calming effect. It is recommended that you consult with your doctor and ask them about stress-relieving supplements to help you find what will work for you.

8. Get Exercise

Doing exercises is one of the vital things you can do to manage stress levels. Getting regular physical exercise relieves physical as well as mental stress. You can work out by going to the gym, jogging, or doing yoga in your garden. Aerobics or random dancing are also great ways to incorporate physical exercises in your routine.

If you don’t like exercising as such, you can pay more attention to your hobbies that involve physical movements. For example, many people like gardening. Researchers say that people who do gardening regularly tend to recover quickly from the stress and are less likely to feel stress[6]. Similarly, you can pursue hobbies like playing outdoor games, walking pets, dancing, etc.

9. Aromatherapy

Lighting a scented candle and using essential oils can also help reduce stress and anxiety levels. This process is called aromatherapy. It involves inhaling certain herbs and fragrances to calm your mind and put your body at ease. You can find a number of soothing fragrances to relax your mind, body, and soul. Below are some of the most common calming fragrances:

  • Bergamot
  • Lavender
  • Vetiver
  • Roman Rose
  • Chamomile
  • Neroli

10. Take a Walk

A simple walk can fix a lot of things and open your mind to a new perspective about the same situation. It helps you slow down, unraveling thoughts that destroy your peace of mind. Also, getting fresh air and vitamin D can help boost serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and improve your mood.

Indulging in different sights and sounds may also shift your focus from your problems to real life. If you can’t go outside, invite the outside in. Get more plants and flowers in your house. Studies show that staying close to nature and greenery helps in reducing stress levels.

Final Thoughts

No matter how hard a situation seems right now, everything is temporary. Every situation is going to change at some point, so do your best not to fall into the trap of chronic stress. Focus on the present moment and improving it in whatever way works for you. Once you learn how to deal with stress, you will find life naturally gets easier.

More on How to Deal With Stress

Featured photo credit: Jamie Brown via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Deep Shikha

A passionate health blogger and founder of Healthifying World

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Published on May 3, 2021

How To Get Over Anxiety: 5 Professional Tips

How To Get Over Anxiety: 5 Professional Tips

Anxiety is killing our mental energy. It is, after all, the leading mental health issue in our society today.  In 2017 alone, more than 284 million people experienced anxiety across the globe, making it the most prevalent mental health disorder globally.[1]

If you are asking the question, “how do I get over my anxiety?”, then this article is for you. I’ve put together a list of my top strategies to help you get over your anxiety. These are the same strategies that have worked for many of my clients over the years, and I think they can work for you too!

Anxiety is, in general terms, as uneasiness or nervousness about an undetermined outcome. Sometimes, this worry and uneasiness is quite excessive and goes from something that we can manage on our own to something for which we need professional help.  If your worry or apprehension includes panic attacks or compulsive behaviors, consider reaching out to a therapist or a doctor for more professional help.

I like to think of anxiety as information—a sign that something is off in your life. It could be a global pandemic, a challenge at work, instability in relationships, or the sign of a larger mental health issue.  Whatever it is, it’s good to think this through and be asking the questions that will help you uncover the parts of your life that could use some adjusting.

Again, consulting with a therapist or counselor, even just for a brief period of time, can help decipher some of these questions for you.  And if you want to give it a go on your own, well that takes us to the first of my five tips on how to get over anxiety.

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Here are 5 tips on how to get over anxiety and live a more fulfilling life.

1. The Mighty Journal

You will be amazed by the power of journaling—the path of self-discovery it can lead you down. The best part of journaling is that there is no right or wrong here. It is a private place where you can work through the stuff in your head and figure some things out.

There are lots of formats for journaling, and I have personally changed my own approach several times depending on what was going on and what I was looking for.  It could be that narrative of your day or bullets with highlights or thoughts of the day.

To make the most out of your journaling I would encourage you to push yourself and go beyond a recount of the day’s events. What you really want here is to get into your thought process and understand the feelings behind the thoughts. Timelines can also be a great way to gain some understanding of relationships and the different events in your life. Again, it is a matter of what works for you.

The pen truly is mightier than. . . the meds?!? My own little psych-mashup.

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2. Schedule Your Self-Care Time

What are the ways you treat yourself? Life is busy and when life demands increase, self-care is often one of the first things to fall by the wayside. But it is critical that you build in your “you time” because when stress levels increase, so will anxiety.

If self-care is not something that you are accustomed to thinking about, I listed some ideas for you to consider.  Keep in mind that if you schedule it with someone else, it might help with accountability.

Think about working smaller chunks of time into the workweek and then something a little more extensive on the weekend, like a hike, excursion, creative home project, or even the occasional weekend away.

Self-care ideas:[2]

  • Take your lunchtime away from your desk, and get outside for a walk or join a colleague for some casual chitchat.
  • Schedule a massage or trip to the spa/salon.
  • Watch a favorite movie or TV show, either on your own or with your favorite person/people.
  • Work out, inside or out—anything that gets your heart rate up.
  • Go on an evening or afternoon walk.
  • Tap into your creative outlet, break out that knitting, woodwork, artwork, or instrument.
  • Dance, at home with your kids, partner, or on your own.  Play your favorite tunes and do your thing!

You can also try these 40 Self Care Techniques To Rejuvenate And Restore Yourself.

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3. Listen to Your Music

Music speaks to our soul. It is a go-to for many of us when in need of a pick-me-up or just blowing off some steam. But sometimes, life gets busy, and we don’t incorporate it into our life the way we once did—finding ourselves in a music deficient rut, listening to the same boring stuff on the radio.

Let this be a reminder to explore the new music out there. Streaming services have revolutionized our access to music and have made it easier than ever before. Explore it and find your jam.

Additionally, music therapy is a growing form of therapy built on the research that it helps decrease pain, blood pressure, and—you guessed it—anxiety while also increasing mood, healing, and overall positivity.[3]

Medical Doctors are using it more and more in operating rooms and incorporating it into their practices. If you subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music, you can just type in “relaxing music” and you will be sure to find something that will do the trick, bringing calm and focus into your life.  In my research for this article, I came across some great ones., and they are now a part of my daily rotation.

4. The Five Senses Exercise

When we experience heightened anxiety, I think of it as the physical energy rising from our feet to our head like a thermometer. Sometimes, this energy can even bring us to a place where we feel disconnected from our bodies. The 5 senses exercise will help you reconnect yourself to your body and bring your anxiety levels down to a more manageable level.

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The 5 senses exercise is a mindfulness exercise where you connect your 5 senses to your present environment. This is a great way to ground yourself and bring your attention and your energy to the here and now.  What I love about this exercise is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. If you start to feel your anxiety creep up, this could be a good strategy to center yourself and possibly ward off a panic attack or prolonged anxiety.

The process is simple:

  1. Start by taking a few deep breathes, inhaling as you count to 3, and then exhaling as you count to 3.
  2. Next, identify 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you can touch and feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  3. Take it in, give yourself a few minutes.
  4. Repeat if needed, and carry on.

5. Mindset Matters

This last one is a big one. A lot of times, anxiety waxes and wanes with how we think about something. Be mindful of your negative self-talk, keeping it in check and working to incorporate perspective. If you know that you are headed into something challenging, prepare yourself for it mentally and allow yourself to be ok with the challenge. After all, the challenge helps us grow and develop.

Also, remember that life is full of choices—granted the options in front of us may be less than ideal, but remember that they are there.  Incorporating some of these above strategies could be one of the first choices you make to create change in your life and get a hold of the anxiety

A quick easy way to get some perspective is to acknowledge the things that you are grateful for (this is also a mindfulness practice).  The gratitude journal is one way to do this where you write down three to five things that you are grateful for every day. Try it out for a week or so and see how you feel. Of course, the more time you practice this, the more you will feel the benefits.

Summing It Up

Anxiety is something that we all experience from time to time, working to identify the source of your anxiety will help you discover the best strategies for you. However, there are some definite best practices that you can incorporate into your life that are sure to minimize your anxiety and keep you living the active and fulfilling life you want.

More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Fernando @cferdo via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Our World in Data: Mental Health
[2] NCBI: Social Anxiety Disorder: Recognition, Assessment, and Treatment
[3] Harvard Health Publishing: How music can help you heal

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