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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Deal With Stress the Healthy Way

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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.

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More on How to Deal With Stress

Featured photo credit: Jamie Brown via unsplash.com

Reference

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Deep Shikha

A passionate health blogger and founder of Healthifying World

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Published on October 15, 2021

Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

1. Stress Hormone Overload

Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

3. Negative Mindset

Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

4. Digestive Issues

It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

5. Depression

Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

6. Breathing Problems

Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

7. Sleep Issues

Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

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