The thing about stress is that everyone reacts differently to it and everyone has their own level of tolerance before stress enters the picture. That means that it may not be easy to point to any one event and say that it was that situation or person that caused your stress.
But, regardless of what caused the stress, there are a number of common physical and mental reactions. These can include a faster heart rate, headaches, itchy skin, sleeplessness, higher blood pressure, changes in eating habits, not being able to think clearly, and even turning to drugs and alcohol. Before we look at how can we reduce stress, let’s look at what can cause stress:
- Family: Stress can happen is when a close relative dies, if you get divorced, if someone has a serious or terminal illness, if you have a disability, if your child gets in trouble or runs away from home, if there is constant competition between brothers and sisters, or if your spouse deserts you.
- Work: Stress often happens if you are not happy at work because of a demanding boss, if you are having problems with co-workers, if you have to work long daily hours or if you need to come in on your days off, or if there is no opportunity for improvement. If you do not have a job, you can feel stressed to find employment and earn a living.
- Travel/Traffic: When you have a job that requires you to travel a lot, either by car, train, or plane, you are always on a tight schedule to get where you need to be on time. Anything that changes your schedule, like a missed connection or a flat tire, can create stress. If you drive to and from work in an area with very heavy traffic, all of the backups can add to your level of stress.
- Relationships: Stress can happen if there is tension with a close friend, a business partner, or a significant other. You can experience self-imposed stress if you think that others do not like you or if you do not think that you are smart enough, good looking enough, or not social enough for other people. Stress can easily happen in today’s electronic age, because you may have less face-to-face interactions and that can create a feeling of loneliness and separation.
- Finances: The need to have enough money to pay for your daily living expenses, to pay the rent or mortgage, and to save for future expenses can cause stress. Living on a tight budget or even thinking about a bankruptcy can raise your level of stress.
- Health: Worrying about medical and dental expenses can make you feel pressured and cause stress.
- Dangers and Fears: Other causes of stress can happen if you live in an area of high crime and vice, if you have been a victim of crime, identity theft, or slander, if you have a fear of flying, or if you worry about any other daily activity.
If you already have chronic medical conditions, stress can aggravate your symptoms and worsen your condition. When stressed, your body heightens it’s fight and flight responses. This can include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and heightened autoimmunity response. But your body can only maintain this for so long. When your system eventually tires and comes down, you’re more susceptible to illness such as exhaustion, flu, fever, and other ailments.
You should visit your doctor on an annual basis. He or she will ask you questions about your psychological and emotional health. Be frank and honest with them. Don’t be afraid to tell them if you have elevated stress in your life. Then follow their advice to improve your overall health.
In the meantime, it’s important to know what doesn’t work to reduce stress and what does …
Things That DO NOT Help Reduce Stress
Often people think they can cope with their stress if they ignore it. And, if they try to deal with their stress, they may not be really helping themselves. Some of the common, unhealthy ways that people deal with stress are:
- Drinking more alcohol at all hours of the day and night
- Taking up smoking or increasing their smoking habits
- Taking medications to relieve headaches, sleeplessness, or body aches and pains
- Calling in sick at work when they are not sick
- Starting to gamble or take illegal drugs
- Overeating comfort foods to feel better about their problems
- Stop eating because of depressed feelings
Top 6 Things That Help Reduce Stress
While stress is a common ailment, doctors cannot give you any medicine that will cure your stress. But, there are a number of ways that you can help yourself work through your stress. Here are some things that will help reduce stress:
1. Breathing Exercises:
You don’t have to be a Yoga expert to relax. Take a few minutes way from your stressful situation or person, sit in a comfortable position in a chair or on the floor, and slowly breathe in through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this for a few minutes until you feel rested. If you want, you can close your eyes while you relax and picture a calm scene by the beach. You can do this several times a day if it makes you feel good.
2. Walking Outdoors:
You don’t have to be an athlete to gain the benefits by just being outside in the sunshine. Start small, take a short, 5-minute stroll around your neighborhood. You can extend the time by a minute or two every day. The sunlight provides you with Vitamin D, and that can lighten your mood. Take this time to smell the freshness in the air.
3. Play Time:
Set aside some time to really enjoy being with your family or friends, or just give yourself permission to have some alone time. Play games with your children, play with your cat or dog, watch a comedy show with your family, play a computer game, or sit on the front porch and look at the passing cars, the trees, or the clouds. Whatever you do to relax, remember to leave your worries and negative thoughts from away from what you are doing.
Listening to your favorite songs or classical melodies can actually change your mental attitude and reduce your stress. Make music a part of your day by listening to the radio while you are getting ready in the morning, by listening to the car radio while driving, and even by listening to slow musical tunes as you fall asleep.
5. Quality Sleep:
When you are experiencing stressful situations, it can keep you awake or disturb your sleep cycle. Your body needs sleep in order to repair and replenish your internal systems. Try to think of pleasant thoughts or future vacations while falling asleep. When you get 6 to 8 hours of solid sleep, you will wake up more relaxed and ready to face the day ahead.
6. Say No:
If you are the one person that people come to with their problems because they want you to solve the problems; learn to say no. While you want to help others, you need to help yourself first. It is okay to say no when you know that you really don’t have the time, the money, or the energy to do everything that other people want from you. Of course, you don’t have to say no to everything. But you can’t overload yourself because then it does become your problem while the person asking is not trying to solve their own problem.
This article was originally published November 19, 2017 and recently updated.