How to Cope with Stress
Stress is simply our body's response to things that happen around us-and we can't help that. Some stress is actually good, and there are ways to manage the bad stress.
Good stress is known as eustress, and it helps us to perform well under challenging circumstances. According to Sarah Belew Cox Psy.D. , a licensed Psychologist at TriHealth Women's Center Kenwood, "Eustress is the kind of stress that fuels you to meet a deadline." But too much stress can turn to distress. Distress is when our body can no longer cope emotionally or physically with the demand that is put upon it.
Stress can come from a variety of places: work, home, family, life changes, and social situations. Even the environment can make you feel stressed. "For example, if you're sitting in really bad traffic or there is bad weather, you may feel elevated levels of stress," says Dr. Cox. Physiological and emotional stress is also common in loved ones of people with a chronic illness or anyone facing a health crisis.
It's important to know that there is a cognitive component to every form of stress. For instance, some people might think certain social situations, like a crowded party or concert, are stressful while others do not. "A lot of it is about perception and the content of our thoughts and how we interpret them," adds Dr. Cox.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Every person's body is unique, which means that all stress signals are different. "We all have different thresholds for stress," says Dr. Cox. Stress can be acute and last for a day, or it may be chronic and impairing. But, these are signs and symptoms are telling in any situation:
Emotional Exhaustion: Increases in irritability, frustration, worry, or anxiety. This can lead to problems with concentration and memory.
Physical Exhaustion: Changes in sleep, energy level, and appetite, muscle tension, headaches. In severe cases, chest pains or cardiac problems might occur.
Frequent Illness: Stress affects our immune system, so frequent upset stomach, cold symptoms, or other illness is not uncommon.
Neglecting to Take Care of Yourself: You might make less time for daily self-care activities like exercising, cooking meals, and spending time with people you care about.
"Don't ignore your body's unique signs of stress. Once stress begins to impact our emotional or physical health, it's time to focus on self-care, setting limits, and possibly seeking professional help for managing short term or chronic stress," says Dr. Cox. In the meantime, here are three helpful tips for managing stress.
1. Identify the cause of your stress, and decide the action you're going to take.
Prioritize commitments. Saying "no" and setting limits can be especially helpful. Check in with your body and your schedule. Make an effort to plan a break in your day or leave your office for some quick down time. Talk about your stress with someone you trust and let others help.
2. Engage in self-care.
Get to know your body. Consider deep breathing, mindfulness, eating well, and sleeping enough. Indulge in hobbies and activities that you're passionate about, and be sure to make time for them. If you aren't successful at managing all this on your own, professional help might be a good option - it's OK to feel overwhelmed.
Our body releases endorphins during exercise that can combat stress and promote overall physical and emotional wellness. Even just a few minutes every day committed to some form of exercise is beneficial. Consider taking a walk during your lunch break, or do deep breathing exercises on a break. These small efforts can help improve your mood, boost your immune system, and reduce frustration.
And finally, don't stress too much about stress! It's all natural, and if you listen to your body and take the right steps your stress will be less in no time.
Last Updated: August 02, 2016