Stress, no matter how much we want to avoid it, is a normal occurrence in our lives. There are many things or situations that can trigger stress or stressors as we call it. It may be because of work, marriage, family problems, divorce, death of a loved one, heartbreaks, etc. However, stressors vary from one person to another since the way we react to situations depend on how we perceive things.
Feeling stress from time to time may be normal but if it stays for a while, it can cause serious problems with your health. According to Dr. Ann Webster, a health psychologist at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, our immune system becomes less efficient as we get older, and stress can ultimately lead to diseases or the progression of it.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress comes in many faces. Recognizing the signs of stress is difficult. There are times we get used to it that it becomes normal to us. Symptoms can be manifested through our emotions, physical health, cognitive, and behavior. WebMD listed the following as the most common symptoms of stress.
Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
Aches, pains, and tense muscles
Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
Frequent colds and infections
Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Forgetfulness and disorganization
Inability to focusPoor judgment
Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Changes in appetite -- either not eating or eating too much
Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail-biting, fidgeting, and pacing
Though we cannot avoid stress, we can control and reduce it. Below are the techniques or strategies we can do to lessen stress as listed by Cleveland Clinic.
1. Eat and drink sensibly.
We often hear of the word “stress eating." We use the term to justify our binge eating whenever we feel stressed out. There is a science behind it though. Short term stress can make us lose our appetite, however, a long term one unleashes hormones that increase our appetite which results in overeating and also of drinking more alcohol. Get rid of those “comfort foods” and drinks from your fridge. It’s not bad to eat and drink, but remember not to overdo both, or else you will just give yourself more stress.
2. Exercise regularly.
Exercising is not just a way to get in shape, it can also help in combating stress. When we exercise, our body stimulates the production of endorphins or what we know as the happy hormones. Moreover, exercising helps us get away with stress as it makes our body busy and diverts our mind from all our worries.
3. Study and practice self-control techniques.
Being patient is one of the hardest things to do especially when emotions are running high. We have to keep in mind not to act on it before thinking of the consequences.
4. Reduce stressors.
We must know our stressors so that we can take control of the level of stress it can cause. It may sound simple, yet it is anything but easy. Stress may come from a toxic relationship, or a job that demands too much of our time, which in return, affects our personal life. Dr. Webster said, “If you know what pushes your buttons, then avoid it. But there are stresses we have to accept, so we must change our reactions to them.” Until we realize, accept, and do something about our stressors, our stress level will remain high.
5. Explicate your values and live by them
No one knows you better than yourself. Whenever you are faced with impossible situations at work or in your relationships, remember the principles you live by. Learn to say no when being pressured by the boss in doing something out of your values. If it does not work, leave. Do not stay in an environment that does not go with what you believe in.
6. Set realistic goals and expectations
Sometimes we try so hard to be perfect when no one is. Stop living up to the expectations of others. Start making your own goals and set expectations on your own.
7. Laugh and have fun.
Laughter is the best medicine. It may be cliche, but studies revealed that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. And the good news is, it’s free. Forget about the madness of your life, let yourself have fun and laugh.