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10 Ways to Manage Stress So It Doesn’t Make You Sick

10 Ways to Manage Stress So It Doesn’t Make You Sick

I experienced a long-term illness relating to prolonged high levels of stress because I hadn’t learned ways to manage stress. I came to a point where I had to do something major about it. It was a life-changing experience. I dove into books, meditation, and prayer. I saturated my mind with research. I took time off work.

My stress resulted from a series of events. Because I hadn’t learned the right ways to manage stress, my body became very sick. What also contributed to my stress was my thought patterns. I always focused on high achievement and tried to go beyond my abilities. As a result I burnt out quite a few times.

Witnessing people twice my age who suffer from an array of problems due to a lack of stress management skills really put things in perspective for me. They have accomplished amazing things, but at the cost of their health, family and own well-being. Seeing the complications and regrets of some of these people has really enforced my desire to learn how to lead a balanced life from a young age.

When my body wasn’t functioning properly, stress was completely overlooked. The doctors and specialists never asked about stress or tested my body for increased cortisol, hormones and symptoms related to stress. I had to find out about those factors through my own research and by turning to a naturopath. I am not against doctors, but the experience made me realize that we are responsible for our own bodies. We need to recognize the warning signs, take time out to center ourselves and always be conscious of our health.

Before you jump into the stress-management techniques, you should look at some of the symptoms of stress to see if you might be suffering from it.

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Physical signs of stress:

  • Tiredness, fatigue, lethargy
  • Heart palpitations; racing pulse; rapid, shallow breathing
  • Muscle tension and aches
  • Shakiness, tremors, tics, twitches
  • Heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation
  • Nervousness
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Excessive sweating, clammy hands, cold hands and/or feet
  • Rashes, hives, itching
  • Nail-biting, fidgeting, hair-twirling, hair-pulling
  • Frequent urination
  • Lowered libido
  • Overeating, loss of appetite
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs and medications

Psychological signs of stress:

  • Irritability, impatience, anger, hostility
  • Worry, anxiety, panic
  • Moodiness, sadness, feeling upset
  • Intrusive and/or racing thoughts
  • Memory lapses, difficulties in concentrating, indecision
  • Frequent absences from work, lowered productivity
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loss of sense of humor

Prolonged and/or intense stress can have more serious effects. It can make you sick! There are more symptoms/signs—this is just a guide.

Now, what are some ways to manage stress?

1) Don’t rush through life

Why are we all rushing anyways? I don’t want to be morbid, death awaits us all. Are we in a rush to die? People put their health at risk to pursue their ambitions. This can create an urgency that leads to stress. I myself have felt this need to achieve a lot from a young age, with the result that I was always busy and put in a lot of effort toward the future. Currently when I feel that need to rush and be busy, I immediately recognize it and do something about it, even if it means a day or two off. This centers my mind and body and helps me live in the moment. Slow down, enjoy the ride and be effective—not just busy.

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For those in their 20s (like me) this quote hit home for me: “Nothing will ruin your 20s more than thinking you should have your life together already.”– Aimee-Cherie

2) Don’t skip meals

Being involved in the workforce for many years I witnessed fellow employees missing lunch due to a heavy workload. They would also share the fact that they had no time for breakfast either. Placing work or commitments before your health can lead to stress on your body. The body requires fuel to work efficiently and if you’re not taking the time to fuel up, you will run on empty. You wouldn’t keep driving a car without fuel! So why would you do it to your body?

3) Don’t take your stress out on those close to you

When you’re stressed you may not act like yourself. The people around you may become targets of attacks in a heightened state of emotion, anxiety or impatience. It is important to implement self-control and perhaps fair to communicate how you feel with those you trust. When I have opened up about how I feel, I have been amazed at the words of encouragement that I have received. It puts things in perspective and shows us how stress is self-created and can be eliminated. Your family and friends should be the people you can be relaxed with. So don’t burn those bridges!

4) Don’t blame everyone else

If you tell yourself that it is everyone else’s fault that you are stressed, that does nothing but keep you stressed. Years ago I was in a position where I was given a lot of responsibility and not much training. That imposed stress on my body, mind, and desire to work. I stuck it out because the money was good, I felt lucky to be given the opportunity, and I didn’t want to let anyone down. I blamed my stress on the workload, a boss who didn’t listen, and peers who spent more time gossiping than working. Eventually I burned out. Take control of your life. If you can’t change the environment, find a new one.

5) Don’t overwork yourself

At the age of 26 I am quickly learning the importance of not overworking myself. From a young age I had a high achiever’s mentality: I pushed too hard and would be discouraged if results were not at a high standard. There’s nothing wrong with aiming for high standards, but aiming for perfectionism at the cost of your happiness is sure to disappoint. In the corporate world and among people I know, there are many who overwork themselves and label it success. Overworking yourself can cause stress in your body, mind and soul. It’s disruptive to a balanced life. I view success as having a well-rounded life and schedule, one that makes time for health, relationships, family and downtime.

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6) Don’t make excuses when you are unwell

I remember a woman who was awfully sick and kept coming into work. She complained that she had a lot of work to do and no time to take off to recover. I recognized her excuse because I had used it myself before. I told her, “You can’t work if you’re dead.” She took a day or two off to recuperate. If your boss or those around you can’t respect your choice to take care of health, they are not worth your time!

7) Don’t ignore it

If you are feeling stressed out, or if you relate to any of the symptoms above, don’t ignore it. Many live in denial and cease to do anything about the state of stress they are in. People may not even realize how stressed they really are. I didn’t. It wasn’t until I allowed my body to recover and went on a journey of self exploration that I came to terms with how stressed my body was. I feel I escaped an early death or long term disability. Don’t keep putting off those warning signs. Check in with yourself and do something about it. Learn stress management skills and get to the bottom of your stress before it gets worse.

8) Don’t take your body or life for granted

Stress is a sign that we need to slow down, take action and focus on what is stressing us. By pushing stress to the side and allowing it to build up, the person who suffers the most is you. Stress can lead to serious illness, psychological disorders and death. It can hurt and cause pain for those closest to you. I never knew stress could bring on disease until I experienced it first-hand. Stress is serious if left unmanaged and/or ignored. If you feel you may be letting people down because you need time out, you need to start loving yourself more. Quitting my career to focus on my health and moving away for six months meant putting myself first. I surrendered having a great income, job security (in a sense) and my career, all in order to get myself together. I distanced myself from family and friends for a short while to be alone and regain strength. The people who love you will stand by you. You may also attract the right people into your life, people who will help you in your journey toward a balanced life.

9) Don’t put off exercise

Exercise helps with releasing stress and clearing the mind. When you are looking after yourself physically you can have a better approach toward your work, issues, and stressors. When I feel overwhelmed, going for a walk or run in the sun gets all the negative energy out of my body. Just don’t overdo it. Stay balanced, focused and consistent. Don’t over-train as it can lead to further stress.

10) Don’t let tomorrow’s worries overwhelm today

If you worry, have anxiety, and people refer to you as a stress head then you are not alone! Since I was a little girl I was worried all of the time. It didn’t help that I came from a religious background where they told us to be good or we would go to hell. Nonetheless, my journey of letting go of worries, anxiety and what I cannot control has been amazing. I will admit it’s been tough but it’s very possible. Embracing the present moment and allowing things to be will decrease your stress. Those butterflies, tight knots in your belly and racing thoughts can be managed. At any time in our life tragedy can come, relationships may end or you may not do well in your assignments! Spending your energy and thoughts on worry won’t help you or your body. Have faith that life has good things in store for you. Allow what is meant to be, be, while doing your best in your own endeavors. When one door shuts, another will open. Say no to stress by saying no to worry!

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There are a lot more stories and guides to stress out there. Here are a few references I found useful:

Australian Psychological Society 2012,Understanding and Managing Stress, http://www.psychology.org.au

Elkin, A 2013, Stress Management for Dummies, John Wiley & Sons

Lees, M 1966, D-Stress Building Resilience in Challenging Times, Inner Cents

Parmer, S & Cooper, C 2008, How To Deal with Stress, (2nd Edn)

Featured photo credit: GaborfromHungary via morguefile.com

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Anjelica Ilovi

Anjelica writes about how to grind and unwind for increased productivity, focus and joyful living anjelicailovi.com {grind + unwind}

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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