Do you often find yourself feeling overworked? Maybe you feel like you’re worn out or like you couldn’t possibly take on anything more. Maybe it’s your family or your friends or your work or maybe it’s some combination of all of them that has you feeling way too stressed. Maybe you’re not really sure what it is you’re feeling but you know it’s definitely not good. Well, we’re going to talk about stress. Specifically, we’re going to talk about what stress is, how it can affect you and how to relieve stress. So let’s get started.
What is Stress?
The first thing we need to look at is what even is stress? Is this what you’re suffering from? The only way to find out is to get a better idea of the background. Stress means that you feel like you’re under a lot of pressure. Sure, most of us feel pressure at some point or another and we consider it to be ‘normal.’ The truth is, stress is definitely not normal and it’s not good for your body. And when you find yourself suffering from extreme stress it becomes an even bigger problem.
Stress can come about as a result of a number of different situations. As we mentioned, you might feel stress because of work or family or friends or a combination of different life events. Also, it could be absolutely any individual issue that causes you to feel stressed as well. For some people juggling a whole lot of things may be no problem. Other people may start experiencing stress earlier on. Keep in mind that you are absolutely your own person and that means your stress level is going to be different from someone else. There’s nothing wrong with that. You just need to learn how to react to stress for you.
What Causes Stress?
We’ve touched on this briefly, but in general, stress is caused by either a single major event or a series of smaller ones. Constant arguing with a friend or family member could lead to stress or constant arguing coupled with work problems. Or maybe you’ve experienced a very serious event in your life such as the loss of a job, moving, divorce or the loss of a loved one. Each of these things can lead to stress and only by knowing how to relieve stress will you be able to overcome the feelings.
Relationships are inherently stressful. Whether you’re in a romantic relationship or you have children, parents or friends, there is always going to be an element of stress involved at some points. The people you love are the ones who most have the ability to drive you crazy. They know how to push your buttons like no one else and that all means that you’re going to get stressed out from them once in a while. It’s relatively normal, but learning how to cope with it is crucial to keeping those relationships as positive as possible.
Trying to balance work and everything else you have going on in your life can be extremely stressful. No matter what kind of work you do it can definitely result in you feeling overworked and undervalued, at least some of the time. You may struggle to figure out how to get all of your work done and also spend time with your family and friends. This also can be highly stressful. If you’re not getting along with your boss or coworkers or if you’re having difficulty getting your work done it can also increase your stress levels.
Or maybe it’s not your money. Maybe you don’t have enough money and you’re falling into debt. Maybe you’re already in debt and you just don’t see a way out. Maybe you’re struggling to make ends meet or you had a huge financial need come up but you just don’t know what to do about it. No matter what you’re experiencing, money is one of the biggest stressors that people report. As more and more people fall into debt it definitely increases stress and can even lead to more serious conditions like depression, anxiety and suicide.
Your Smoking, Drinking and Drugs
For those who do engage in any of these activities it can actually exacerbate the problems that you’re experiencing with stress. Where most people believe that they use these things to reduce their stress levels, they actually increase your anxiety over time. They can increase the mental health problems that you’re experiencing and can actually lead to increased depression. Not only that but as you get used to each of them they require more and more in order to get the same feelings of immediate help (which then turn into something far more serious).
What Does Stress Feel Like?
So, is what you’re feeling actually stress? Feeling like you’re under pressure may not seem like a solid enough idea and you may feel like you still aren’t sure. But stress causes a number of physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms, which are going to make it easier for you to diagnose yourself. We’ll look at some of the symptoms you may experience, but remember that everyone is different. You may experience different symptoms or you may experience any combination of these symptoms. You likely won’t experience every one of these at the same time but they may happen at different times or at different intensities.
- Sleeping more or not sleeping enough
- Changes in eating habits
- Trouble concentrating on tasks
- Abrupt mood changes
- Intense irritability
- Increased use of alcohol or illegal drugs
- Muscle tension
- Nausea or dizziness
- Decreased sex drive
- Feeling overwhelmed
Keep in mind, these are only a few of the many symptoms that you may experience. They are also symptoms that may occur as a result of a number of other conditions or mental health problems. That means you should be taking note of when they occur and how frequently, as well as speaking with your doctor or mental health professional if you feel that they are interfering with your life or have gone on for an extended period.
How Stress Affects You
In the interest of full disclosure, stress has actually been proven to be a positive thing, in small doses. When you feel slightly stressed it can actually motivate you to perform even better. It can make you feel slightly more alert, which makes you more in tune to the things that are happening around you. In the short term, all of these things help make you a better contributor to whatever it is that you’re doing, whether it’s home-based or work-based. On the other hand, stress can be extremely dangerous if you’re not careful and if you allow it to continue on for too long.
The truth is, stress can affect you in a number of different ways. If you don’t learn how to relieve stress (which we’ll talk about in a minute) you could actually end up with serious mental, emotional and physical side effects. You could experience lowered immunities or even digestive problems. There could also be mental health problems like depression and anxiety disorders. Each of these things can seriously impact your wellbeing and every aspect of your life.
Being stressed for extended periods of time can impact your feelings about yourself. It can affect the way that you interact with the people in your life, both loved ones and even strangers or coworkers. It can also affect your performance at work. Ignoring feelings of stress can make them even worse and may cause them to appear at inappropriate or inopportune times. Learning how to deal with your stress, how to stop it from happening in the first place and how to reduce stress can improve your life in dramatic ways.
The Physical Effects of Stress
Let’s dive a little deeper into what happens to your body when you experience stress. First, there are actually stress hormones in your body, which will be released to help you decide what needs to be done. This is what’s commonly known as the ‘fight or flight response.’ It’s where your body is trying to decide whether it needs to take action or simply run away. Alongside this release of chemicals and hormones, your body is going to do other things to react to the stress, like triggering adrenaline and noradrenaline.
The adrenaline and noradrenaline is going to increase your heart rate, your perspiration and your blood pressure. You’ll also experience a decrease to your blood flow in the skin and your stomach. On top of all of that, you’re going to release fat and sugar that helps to increase your energy. All of these things are designed to make your body react quickly and do what needs to be done. If you need to run, they’ll make sure you can run fast. If you need to fight, they’ll make sure you’re optimally prepared to fight at your best.
Unfortunately, you could experience other physical affects because of these changes in your body. You may experience nausea, pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, aches, headaches, muscle tension and a whole lot more. That’s because your body isn’t used to those surges in hormones and as the immediate danger passes, your body doesn’t know what to do with them. It reacts negatively as a result. And what’s even worse is that you could experience a higher risk of heart attack or stroke as a result of these increases in hormones. That’s especially true if the stress continues for a long period of time, because your body keeps those stress hormones instead of releasing them.
The Emotional and Behavioral Effects of Stress
When it comes to your emotions and your behavior, stress can still have extreme effects. For example, you may experience anxiety, low self-esteem or irritability because of increased stress. Increased worry, acting irrationally or out of character, becoming more aggressive or experiencing racing thoughts can occur as well. Each of these things are a result of continued stress and not learning how to reduce stress. When you experience these it could actually cause you to withdraw even more, leading to depression, anxiety and more.
Getting Help With How to Relieve Stress
When it comes to how to reduce stress the important thing is that you start working on it as soon as possible. Stress, as we’ve mentioned, can cause some serious side effects and problems throughout your life. You want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to stop stress before it happens, treat it when it starts and get the help you need as it becomes an even bigger problem. Know that your stress is something you absolutely can work on and it can get better, if you know what you’re doing.
Steps to Avoid Stress
When it comes to stress the best thing that you can possibly do is teach yourself how not to have stress in the first place. That sounds great, right? Everyone would love to never experience stress but it just doesn’t seem like something you can do. After all, doesn’t everyone have stress? The truth is that most people will experience stress at some point in their life, but that doesn’t mean that everyone experiences stress for their entire lives. There are people out there who learn how to control their thoughts and feelings in a way that helps them avoid stress, but it takes effort.
The first thing to do is eat healthy. I know, it seems like everything starts with eating healthy and that’s definitely not that much fun, right? Well, it can be a big help because eating the right food affects the way that your body achieves the things that you need throughout the day. Not only that but it affects your mood and your brain chemistry. All of these things together are going to make it definitely worth your while to eat a little more veggies and a little less of the processed food you’re probably stopping for most days.
Next, try not to drink alcohol or smoke. Hold up a minute though, before we lose you. You don’t have to give them up entirely. If you can reduce how much you use them it’s going to help you a great deal because each of these has an impact on your feelings of depression, your tension and a whole lot more. Reducing or eliminating them will actually make you feel better in the long run and that’s the ultimate goal, don’t you think? Just start with reducing and gradually move up to eliminating.
Make sure you’re always getting plenty of exercise. Getting exercise releases natural happy hormones in your body and that helps you to decrease stress all on its own. Not only that but it helps you to relax and immerse yourself in everything else that’s going on around you. Sunlight, fresh air and the exercise itself will all help you to feel better and to understand how to relieve stress. That exercise is going to get you pumped up and ready for whatever you want to do next (or not do next).
Taking a little bit of time to yourself so that you can rest, relax and recharge is going to be an important step in the right direction. After all stress usually comes about because you’re overwhelmed with things outside of yourself. Going to a quiet place and getting in touch with what you want and need is a great step. Taking care of yourself, in whatever way you need to do so, is another important part of the process. You need to understand what is best for you and if you can’t understand that it’s going to be difficult for you to relieve stress in any situation.
Pay attention to your own mind as well. When you’re doing just about anything in life you’re going to have someone telling you what to do and how to do it. But if you can work on mindfulness and understanding what it is you want most and what you don’t, it’s going to be crucial for you to find ways that you can relax and that you can look inside yourself. This doesn’t have to be spiritual in any sense, but it does need to help you focus on what you want and what you’re going to get when you put it into practice.
No matter what else is going on in your life, having the right amount of sleep is extremely important. For those working on how to reduce their stress, this is going to make a huge difference. It may not seem like getting enough sleep is important, but it definitely is because it’s going to allow your body to recover and heal from everything that you’re putting it through during the course of the day. It lets your body get the physical recuperation that it needs as well as mentally recharging you. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep it’s going to only make your stress worse.
Finally, try to cut yourself some slack. We all tend to be a little too hard on ourselves sometimes and that is definitely not a good way to relieve stress. When you’re too hard on yourself you’re going to make that stress worse. Keep in mind that everyone has a few stumbling blocks. Everyone will fail sometimes or will struggle sometimes. It makes us human and that’s not a bad thing. Instead of beating yourself up over it just realize that sometimes bad things happen or sometimes we make mistakes and figure out how you’re going to move on.
What to Do When You Feel Stress Coming On
Okay, so you know how to avoid stress, at least a few things that you can do in order to avoid stress, but what can you do if you already feel stressed? Luckily, there are all kinds of things that you can do when you start feeling like you’re getting stressed or like things are just getting to be too much. This is the heart of how to reduce stress and it’s the part that’s really going to help you feel better, no matter what’s going on in your life.
First, you’re going to have to know how to recognize when stress is happening. Learning to recognize that you are stressed as quickly as possible is going to make a huge difference in the long run, allowing you to take action more quickly. The faster you take action the less emotional, physical and behavioral effects of stress that are going to be impacting you. By recognizing that something you’re doing (or a lot of somethings) are causing you stress you’re going to be able to immediately take action and stop one or more of those activities, or start in on something that will help you relax before getting back to them.
Next, you’re going to actually identify what’s causing you stress. In the last step we recognized that we were feeling stress. Now we’re going to look for the trigger. What is it that you’re doing right now? Is that one thing causing you stress or is it compiling with other things to cause you stress? Think about the different types of things that could be happening, whether something that you can solve, something that will take care of itself or something that you can’t control. Things that you can solve are going to be the ones we’ll talk about next. Things that are going to take care of themselves eventually you can learn to let go of and things that you have no control over are another one you’ll need to learn to let go of.
If you find something with a practical solution you can work on resolving the stress that you feel by following through with the solution. This may take a bit of time and effort. You may need to work out what exactly can be done or how you’re going to resolve the situation. Maybe you can’t resolve it right this minute but you’re working towards it. That’s going to be the first type of stress that you can relieve.
For those things that will take care of themselves eventually or those that you can’t control, there’s nothing that you can do to take care of the source of the stress. Instead, you’re going to want to learn some of the coping techniques and stress relieving options that we’ll talk about in a minute. These are things that aren’t going to teach you how to relieve stress entirely, but how to reduce stress’s impact on your life.
Coping With Stress
Things that will help you to reduce the amount of stress that you feel are going to be different from one person to the next. Some of these tips may work for you and some may not. It’s likely going to be about trial and error, but each of them is intended to help you, at least momentarily, get your mind off whatever it is that’s causing you stress and help you to relax. That way, when you go back to the things that you need to do you’re going to be recharged and feel less stressed out in the moment.
- Get Some Exercise. Exercise is a great way for you to relieve stress because it actually reduces the stress hormones that your body releases. Not only that but it also encourages your body to release endorphins, which are like natural happy chemicals, improving your overall mood. Plus it’s going to help you sleep better and make you more confident. And you can do any kind of exercise you want.
- Use Essential Oils. Essential oils are great for some people because they promote relaxation and allow you to sit and focus on the scent. Some scents are designed to be more relaxing or to help you calm down, but sometimes it’s just about the scents that work for you. Lavender, rose, frankincense, sandalwood and geranium are some of the most common for relieving stress. You can use a little bit of mixed oils on your skin (don’t use pure) put it in a diffuser or spray it on a fabric surface to get the scent.
- Stop Drinking Caffeine. I know, you’re probably burning the candle at both ends and drinking a lot of caffeine is how you get through the day, but it’s actually been proven that large amounts of caffeine can cause anxiety. They’re also going to make you jittery and all of that is only going to increase your stress levels. Reducing caffeine can help you relax all on its own and you may find you’re immediately less stressed.
- Write a Journal. Writing down what’s going on in your life can actually help to make you feel better about it. Getting the thoughts out on paper is a huge part of therapy and it definitely does work for a lot of people. If you don’t want to write down negative things then focus on what you’re grateful for instead. This has also been shown to relieve stress because you’re thinking about the good things in your life.
- Take Time Off. This is probably one of the best things that you can do when you’re starting to feel stressed. Take time to get away from whatever it is that’s stressing you out. Yes, your stressor will still be there when you get back, but walking away can help you get a fresh perspective and help you feel ready to take it on again when you do return. Spending time with friends and family helps your body release something called oxytocin too, which is actually a completely natural chemical that relieves stress.
- Have a Laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine. It’s definitely not going to be easy to feel stressed out when you’re also laughing, right? So find something to laugh about. We’re not talking about nervous laughter like when you’re making a mistake or when someone tells you a joke you don’t really like. We mean real laughter that reduces your stress level and actually improves your immune system too.
- Control Your Life. This one is difficult for some people because it feels like you just don’t have any control. But there are things in your life that you have a choice in. So learn to say no. Learn to tell people that you can’t take on a new responsibility or that you just don’t have time for something. Prioritizing the things that are important to you over taking on a new project is going to relieve a great deal of stress.
- Meditate. Calm mind helps you better at handling tough situations in your life. Meditation is a great way to calm your mind. Moreover, if you practice meditation regularly, you’ll be able to find positive changes in your brain after eight weeks. Want to try but don’t know how? You can start from this ultimate guide to meditation.
Should I Talk to a Professional?
If your stress seems to be too overwhelming or you’re not sure how to take care of it on your own, or if you start having thoughts of suicide, it’s time to seek out professional help. A professional will be able to work with you to find out what it will take to relieve your stress and to give you personalized relaxation techniques. Do not take this on alone. Let someone else help you to get your life back.
Wrapping it Up
Stress can be an extremely important aspect in your life in a number of ways. If it’s working to keep you motivated and moving that’s great, but if it starts interfering with your life, in any way, it’s definitely something you need to get rid of. Don’t let stress take you down when you have so much more that you could be doing with your life. You deserve to succeed and to achieve great things. That’s why you want to learn how to reduce stress.
Hopefully, this article has helped you to better understand stress and everything that it can mean in your life. Hopefully, you now have the tools, tips and tricks to avoid stress and to combat it when it does come your way. You deserve to live a happy, healthy and fulfilled life and that’s not going to happen if you’re constantly experiencing stress. So make sure you read through this article more carefully and figure out which methods work for you in relieving stress and getting back to the life you want to live.