Stress has become the illness of our time! So many people experience stress and the global Covid-19 pandemic has even further increased the average stress levels.
At one point or another most people experience stress; this is absolutely normal. What isn’t normal is prolonged stress that might cause permanent damage to your body. It can take a toll on many aspects of health and has a wide range of symptoms.
Other than becoming merely aware of the feelings of stress the following are common signs and symptoms of stress: acne, headaches, chronic pain like muscle pains, frequent sickness, decreased energy, insomnia, changes in libido, digestive issues, changes in appetite, depression, rapid heartbeat, sweating, feeling you cannot get things done, moodiness, anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, irritability, sadness, worrying all the time, feeling you are under constant pressure, drinking or doing drugs to deal with your challenges, increased smoking, withdrawal from family and friends, and many more.
This is quite a mouth-full! Experience one of two of these symptoms do not necessarily mean that you are experiencing unhealthy levels of stress however, an increase in the number of symptoms and a prolonged experience of these symptoms, should be seen as warning signs.
Fortunately, there are many ways to help relieve stress and that is really the focus of my blog. What can you do to relieve stress?
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress. It might seem contradictory, but putting physical stress on your body through exercise can relieve mental stress as you are actually utilising the adrenaline and cortisol that built up in your body. The benefits are best when you exercise regularly. Even walking for an hour a day can decrease your stress levels.
Literally thousands of studies have been performed on the importance and benefits of sleep. A good night’s rest has a positive impact on your stress levels. To truly benefit from the benefits of sleep you need to have good sleep habits that you practise daily.
- Deep breathing
Deep breathing exercises are an antidote for stress. During a stressful meeting a couple of deep breaths can calm you down. There are several types of deep breathing exercises – just search the internet. The goal of deep breathing is to focus your awareness on your breath, making it slower and deeper. This helps slow your heart rate, allowing you to feel more peaceful.
- Reduce your caffeine intake
I am not saying you should stop with your morning coffee however, bear in mind that caffeine is a stimulant and high doses can actually increase anxiety. Become aware of your body’s reaction to caffeine; if it makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back.
- Write it down
One way to handle stress is to write things down however, keep a balance. While recording what you are stressed about is one approach, another is writing down what you are grateful for. Gratitude may help relieve stress and anxiety by focusing your thoughts on what is positive in your life.
- Spend time with friends and family
Although we tend to withdraw from family and friends when we are in stressful situations, social support from them can help you get through these times. Being part of a friend network gives you a sense of belonging and self-worth, which can help you in tough times.
And even better is to spend time with people that make you laugh! I often refer to the benefits of laughing in my blogs – it is hard to feel anxious when you are laughing.
- Learn to say no
Not all stressors are within your control, but some definitely are. Take control over the parts of your life that you can change and are causing you stress. You can choose to say “no” more often. This is especially true if you find yourself taking on more than you can handle. Remember: you always have a choice.
- Avoid procrastination
Another way to take control of your stress is to stay on top of your priorities and stop procrastinating. Unfortunately, procrastination can lead you to be reactive as opposed to proactively, and this can cause stress, which negatively affects your health and sleep quality.
Get in the habit of making a to-do list organised by priority. Give yourself realistic deadlines and work your way down the list.
- Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness describes practices that anchor you to the present moment. This could be yoga, meditation, mindfulness classes, etc. Mindfulness may help increase self-esteem, which in turn lessens symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Physical contact
Yes, I know: physical contact in these interesting times have become challenging. However, you can still have contact with the rest of your household and even your pets. Many studies have shown that positive physical contact can help release oxytocin that promotes a positive mood. In turn, this can help lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Having a pet may help relieve stress by giving you purpose, keeping you active and providing companionship; all qualities that help reduce anxiety.
- Listen to soothing music
Listening to music can have a very relaxing effect on the body. It becomes especially useful when you listen to soothing music before you go to bed as it will also improve your sleep patterns. Nature sounds can also be very calming. This is why they are often incorporated into relaxation and meditation music.
I hope these simple actions will allow you to reduce your stress levels. Until next time! And remember:
The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. Sydney J. Harris