Stress is an inevitable part of life, but when it goes beyond a certain level, it can negatively affect our mental health well being. This makes it important to recognize when stress becomes too much so that you can take the necessary steps to manage it.
Chronic stress, caused by prolonged exposure to stressful situations, differs from short-lived acute stress, which is caused by a one-time event. Chronic stress can often be difficult to identify because it can manifest in so many ways. As a result, it can lead to:
Both physical and emotional symptoms including headaches, fatigue, depression and anxiety
Changes in behaviour such as lack of motivation and focus, irritability and anger
Changes in eating habits including overeating, under eating or eating unhealthy foods
Changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia and sleeping too much
Substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviours like smoking and drinking alcohol
When it comes to stress, I often use the analogy of a gazelle being chased by a lion to better understand the fight or flight response. While we may not have to worry about being eaten lions in our modern world, our daily stressors can mimic this response. Social media and the 24/7 mentality of society can exacerbate these issues, leading to increased chronic stress.
Luckily, there are many effective ways to reduce stress and gain control of our lives. Here are some evidence-based strategies to successfully beat stress when it hits:
Regular exercise can help you mood, reduce anxiety and boost your self-confidence . Exercise releases endorphins, which are hormones that make us feel good. Regular movement can also help build resilience and increase our ability to cope with stress.
2. Get quality sleep
When we are sleep deprived, we are more likely to become stressed and overwhelmed. Ideally, you should to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you have difficulty sleeping, try calming activities such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises before bed.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that focuses on being present in the moment. It can help us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings without judgment. Taking 10 minutes each day to sit quietly in meditation can reset your nervous system to its natural relaxed state and improve your ability to manage the stress that is present in every day life.
4. Create meaningful connections
Spending time with loved ones reduces stress, improves well being and promotes support. Research shows that individuals who spend quality time with loved ones have better mental health, increased longevity and greater resilience in the face of life's challenges.
5. Take regular relaxation breaks
To reduce stress, prioritizing relaxation breaks is essential. Try deep breathing, journaling, visualization techniques, meditation or yoga. Engaging in activities such as reading, listening to music, taking a bath or going for a walk can also be beneficial.
6. Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet rich in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains reduces stress hormones and stabilizes blood sugar levels, keeping your body energized while lowering stress. Monitoring you diet in this way also helps ensure that the body is getting the essential nutrients it needs to function optimally.
7. Seek professional guidance
Seeking help from a professional such as a coach, therapist, or counsellor, as well as seeking advice from a holistic or medical doctor, can be effective in managing stress and developing coping strategies.
By implementing these strategies, you may decrease chronic stress and enhance your overall well being, allowing you to unlock your full potential and live a happier, healthier life.
Need help? Schedule a free health strategy session with me today.