How do you recognize and handle stress? Are you short with your kids? Do you develop physical ailments such as headaches or muscle tension? Is your mind flooded with all the responsibilities you have or expectations others have of you? Depending on our personal experiences, level of resiliency, and learned behaviors, we can each feel and express stress in different ways, whether we are conscious of it or not.
Recognize You Are Stressed Out
It is important to identify our specific warning signs to try to avoid possible triggers. Red flags can include negative feelings such as anger and irritability, unhealthy behaviors such as over-eating and skimping on sleep, or catastrophic thinking that we will eventually crash and burn. Some people may even become emotionally distant and isolate from others. Once these signals are detected, we must slam on the brakes to slow or even stop the stress cycle.
How to Address Your Stress
Whether the stress originates internally or externally, it is best to start to regulate yourself physically. Ensure you are exercising and eating well to obtain optimal health during overwhelming times. It is advised to limit caffeine intake and make sure you are eating enough fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Taking breaks throughout the day and getting enough sleep will also allow your body to have the natural energy it needs to begin to address stress management.
Exercise reverses the effects of the physical stress response. Taking a brisk walk, swimming laps, or biking through a forest preserve are forms of exercise that are ways to produce those feel-good endorphins that combat your body’s main stress hormone, cortisol. When high levels of cortisol are detected, it takes an emotional and physical toll on us. Catch the anxiety early, realize the trigger to interrupt the threat, and engage back into your environment. There are even Stress Relief Tool for Adults that we can use to help ground ourselves to return to the present moment. Don’t just discount that you are having a couple of “bad days” and think “this too shall pass.” Recognize your body has multiple “alarm systems” to alert you and let you know it is time to take a step back and recalibrate.
Not only do we need to make physical changes to handle stress, but we must also address our psychological and emotional states. When life gets out of control, we can easily feel dysregulated and become derailed. Take a step back and evaluate what you do and don’t have control over. You might need to accept there are certain aspects that cause our stress that we can not change. For example, if we choose to live in a metropolitan area, we must learn to accept that sitting in traffic might be a part of our daily commute. In these circumstances, learning to accept and move forward is necessary for mental wellbeing. Mind Over Mood is a great resource that explains how our thoughts can influence our feelings.
Take Control and Take Action
Once we separate what we do have control over, we can start to organize our thoughts and actions. Put on hold any issue that does not need to be immediately addressed and decline any requests you know you won’t have the emotional energy or capacity to complete. Write out a “to do” list and prioritize the work in order of importance. Make #1 on the list “Create a To-Do List” then BAM! you already feel a sense of accomplishment. Break down each responsibility into smaller tasks. Starting minor tasks feels less daunting than taking on a large project. Remind yourself “inch by inch is a cinch but mile by mile takes awhile.”
Social Connections and Supports
Addressing our social needs is just as important as restoring our physical and emotional tanks. While certain social engagements might actually cause more stress, spending time with supportive family and friends is invaluable. When we feel comfortable in relationships, it feels safer to be vulnerable and share our struggles. Feeling validated by another offers us a sense that we are not alone and it is ok to not be ok. These difficult times also provide us the opportunity to strengthen our connections with others and build further support systems. Take a walk with your spouse or invite a friend out for dinner. The conversations might lead to laughter or tears, but you will be reassured that you do not need to go through these difficult times alone. Social interactions can restore our motivation and change our perspective on our current situation.
Whether we like it or not, stress will always be a part of our lives. Check your emotional, social and physical pulse frequently. Our services can help you understand what you need to navigate through the ups and downs of this fun journey called life.