Learning how to deal with stress levels in your life is a significant key to overall happiness and health. Experts estimate that more than 75% of all doctor visits are related to stress and countless studies have proven a direct link between chronic stress and an increased risk of disease.
Emotional and mental signs of stress appear almost immediately. They are well known and a clear sign that something isn’t right.
- Inability to concentrate or poor memory
- Slower cognitive function – affecting decision-making and logical thinking
- Racing thoughts, restlessness, or constant worry
- Feeling overwhelmed or helpless
- Loss of interest in activities you once found pleasurable
- Mood swings that include sadness, frustration, or irritability
- Withdrawal from friends, family, or co-workers
Over time, mental and emotional stress will begin to show itself physically, gradually wearing down your body in ways you might not recognize until you’re in distress. Feeling out of control of your life increases your risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide.
Physical Manifestations of Too Much Stress
Chronic inflammation caused by excess stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline is dangerous to your basic bodily functions.
A short bout of stress can be handled without long-term effects but stress that goes on and on without reprieve will send your immune system into overdrive and stimulate a chemical chain reaction. Once your body is flooded with inflammatory hormones, every cell inside you is at risk and women are more drastically affected than men.
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping too much (hypersomnia)
- Tension headaches and migraines
- Pain and achiness in the bones, joints, and muscles
- Damage to the heart resulting in high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke
- Higher cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Digestive issues such as irregular bowel, cramping, bloating, heartburn, or nausea
- Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
- Compromised immunity and increased risk of infection and sickness
- Hair loss, dental pain or deterioration, or increased sensitivity of the skin
- Loss of sexual interest in both genders or erectile dysfunction in men
- Irregular menstruation or worsening PMS symptoms (bloating, mood swings, cramps)
- Fatigue or flagging energy that doesn’t improve no matter how much sleep you get
It’s unrealistic to think you can obliterate all forms of physical and mental strain in your daily life but learning how to deal with stress is an excellent first step.
1. Eat and Drink Responsibly: You only have one body to live in and if you fill it with processed junk while depriving it of adequate hydration, it’s going to rebel. Water is critical to your survival as well as your ability to roll with whatever life throws at you.
Choose as many natural foods as possible, organic if you can, and give your body a variety of essential nutrients from which to choose! Avocados, dark chocolate (the higher the cacao percentage, the better!), asparagus, leafy greens, berries, nuts (especially cashews, walnuts, and almonds), garlic, green tea, grass-fed beef, and probiotics have been shown in scientific studies to help combat the physical effects of stress.
2. The “Magic” of Holistic Therapy: There are few things as beneficial (without harmful side effects) as yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy. Learning how to deal with stress might mean thinking outside the box!
A few drops of stress-reducing essential oils, soft music, and ten minutes to focus on calming your mind and body will lower your blood pressure and leave you feeling focused and relaxed. Try an aromatherapy massage for even more good mojo!
3. Get Up and Hustle: You don’t have to spend your time in a gym and if you live in a harsh climate, walking isn’t always possible. Turn on music you love and shake your booty. It doesn’t matter if you can dance! Your body is going to love the of effect musical movement.
There are many low-impact workouts you can do in the comfort of your own home that aren’t even going to feel like exercise! Don’t put it off – start with stretching to get your body loose and then boogie for half an hour. Exercise releases endorphins (happy hormones) that not make you feel incredible, they lower inflammatory response. While they lower stress, these foods feed every cell with delicious, nutritious nutrients.
4. Get the Toxins Out: Toxins found in food or daily lifestyle habits (tobacco, drugs, and excessive alcohol) are definitely damaging. However, one area that is often overlooked is our relationships and interactions with toxic people.
Do a regular “mental wellness check” to evaluate how people around you make you feel. If they inspire feelings of guilt, fear, frustration, sadness, or anger, you might want to begin putting some distance between you. Outside influences – especially in the form of toxic personalities – can feel as though they crush you by small increments. This can make it difficult to deal with the smaller stresses in your daily existence. You owe it to yourself to remove them from your life.
5. Just Breathe: Stop right now and take a long, slow breath. Hold it for ten seconds and exhale. Repeat for one minute. In the hectic routine most of us live these days, it’s amazing that something as essential (and simple) as breathing is overlooked.
After your traffic-clogged commute to work, don’t get out of your car until you take a minute to breathe. Before a stressful meeting, take a minute to breathe. It’s okay to do that because you’re allowed to focus on you and what you need. Stop…and breathe.
Stress doesn’t have to win. Give yourself permission to stop the stress train and get off. You will always have low levels of acute stress – that spikes and then eases – that’s part of the crazy world we live in.
However, if your stress is ongoing, it’s time to make some valuable changes.
Learning how to deal with stress, both large and small, will give you the fortitude to make yourself a priority. Whether you know it or not, you deserve to be number one on your list of things to do.