Learning How To Deal With Stress And Anxiety

By: Mary Elizabeth Dean

Updated January 27, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Rashonda Douthit , LCSW

Understanding Stress And Anxiety

Are you wondering how to deal with stress? Look no further. Stress and anxiety are your body's natural reaction to changes in the environment around you. During these changes, your body can react both physically and emotionally.

These changes can affect your body in a multitude of ways. Some people report a quickening of their heartbeat, high blood pressure, digestive troubles, a general feeling of dread or sadness, or an overwhelmingly negative feeling in their chest and stomach along with other health problems.

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Is There Such A Thing As Good Stress?

When you are experiencing stress and anxiety, it’s probably hard to image that there is any good purpose that stress could serve in your everyday life. However, if your body is under stress due to a dangerous situation, it triggers your natural fight or flight response. This is an important instinct that has helped keep people alive. When faced with a dangerous situation, your body is flooded with a stress hormone which helps you react quickly without thinking when needed.

While this is a good thing when you’re in a dangerous situation, that’s not always the case. When this happens, the stress hormone and the mental and physical effects of stress and anxiety can cause health problems in your life. This is why it’s important to learn techniques for stress relief that you can use when you feel anxious. 

There are many things you can learn about how to deal with stress in your daily life.

Take A Breather

One thing you can learn about how to deal with stress and anxiety is to take a moment to breathe and focus on calming down.

There are many deep breathing exercises that can help with managing stress. Deep breathing can also help alleviate the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as lowering your heart rate and blood pressure.

These deep breathing exercises are also ideal because they are simple to incorporate into your daily life, they don't cost any money or require any expertise, and they can be utilized at the drop of a hat. They are also a good idea because you can practice them no matter where you are.

One such example of a breathing exercise is called belly breathing. To begin, sit or lie down in a position that is comfortable. Place one hand on your belly and breathe in through your nose deeply. You want to do this in a way that only your belly moves; you don't want any moving around your chest or shoulder area for this to work.

Then, purse your lips like you are preparing to whistle. Breathe out through your mouth as you press on your belly. You should feel your stomach area retract as you do this.

If you don't feel relief at first, it is important to understand that this method may require repetition. Especially if you are feeling intensely stressed or anxious, you may have to repeat the process several times for it to be effective.

If you practice this method and dedicate yourself to seeing it through, you will likely notice a reduction in the severity of your negative emotions over time. You can tell all your friends this simple approach to deal with stress and practice breathing together!

If you’re in a private place, you may find it helpful to spend time listening to soothing music while you do these deep breathing exercises. But it’s also helpful to know that you can experience stress relief even from doing something as simple as slowing your natural breathing and focusing on deep breathing without having to do a specific technique. This can help you to reduce stress effects like fast heart rate or raised blood pressure even when you’re in public places.

Get Moving

Even though many people don't realize it, mental health and physical health often go hand in hand.

It is true that regular exercise can cause your heart rate to quicken, which is why many people with stress and anxiety issues shy away from this method.

While this is true, the increase in heart rate that you experience has little to do with stress, and everything to do with keeping your heart healthy and your mind at ease. When you exercise, you not only are giving your body much-needed strength and stamina, but you are also releasing all the bad energy that is pent up inside you.

Additionally, when you spend time exercising, you release happy hormones called serotonin. These hormones, which act as a natural mood booster, are an evidence-based and doctor-approved way to reduce problems with stress and anxiety.

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If you find yourself worrying often, learning how to deal with stress may come in the form of movement. Physical activity can be just the thing to help you realize how to deal with stress. You can rest knowing that the workout will stimulate both your body and mind, leading to a healthier and happier future for you. And apart from the stress relief that you may experience, there are also the other added health benefits that come with exercising.

Find An Outlet

When you are feeling stressed or anxious, you do yourself no favors by sitting and letting it chip away at you. The best thing you can do for yourself and your mental health could be as simple as finding an outlet to channel all your energy into.

Some common suggestions of outlets to reduce the effects of stress include team sports, gardening, and yoga. To decide what the best option for you is, you may want to start by deciding what kind of feelings come along when you are trying to figure out how to reduce stress.

If you are the type of person who becomes angered by your stress, team sports (or physical exercise you can do alone, if you prefer) could be right for you. This is a common suggestion for people experiencing stress and anxiety because engaging in rigorous activities that require lots of energy to sustain lets you take energy away from any stress or anxiety. You want to match the activity to the feelings you are experiencing, so since anger is a very intense feeling, the method you use to combat it should be, too.

You may also experience a feeling of loss of control when stress takes over. If this sounds like you, gardening can help. This is because gardening is a simple formula that yields almost the same results when practiced correctly. You can rest easy knowing no matter what seems to be spinning out of control in your daily life, you can always work on your garden.

Perhaps one of the most popular ways to help you learn how to reduce stress in life is yoga. This is a combination of relaxing breathing exercises and low impact physical activity that encourage peace within. Most times, yoga is held in a class environment or by a private instructor, but there is also unlimited content online in the form of blogs or videos that you can use to educate yourself if you would prefer this be self-lead.

Consider Journaling

Another method of controlling stress and anxiety many people find helpful is stress journaling. If you find yourself wondering what to do when stressed that can be both mentally stimulating but not too hard on your body, this method might be right for you.

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Begin by going to the store and picking out a notebook and some pens or pencils. Any time you feel stress or anxiety begin to creep up, sit down and pick up your pen. Write down all the things that are contributing to your stress and anxiety. Sometimes, you may not know what the root cause of the issue is, and that's okay! If you find yourself in this predicament, write whatever comes to your mind.

For some people, this can be a detailed description of the emotions they are feeling along with a summary of the day. Continue to write until you can't think of anything else to put on the paper. Then, read through the page and highlight things that you think were the biggest contributors to your increased stress level.

Feel free to use flow charts or other graphics to help you, especially if you are a more visual person. Many artistic people prefer to doodle or create masterpieces detailing the feelings and happenings in their life in their stress journal. This can prove to be very therapeutic and can help you tie in a hobby that you enjoy doing, which will further work to eliminate stress and anxiety from your life.

Try To Eliminate The Negatives

There are a number of things that may contribute to stress in your life. Maybe the stress you are experiencing is brought on by a loved one you may have a conflict with, or by a tough work situation.

If you are serious about learning how to deal with stress, sacrifices often must be made.

If you have a loved one like a family member or spouse who is causing you stress, the thought of removing them from your life may result in even more anxiety. The good news is, you may not have to. Talking about it with the person will likely be the first step towards getting on the same page.

In a quiet, relaxed setting, sit down and talk with them about the feelings you have. Explain that you understand they may not intentionally cause you undue harm and work together through your differences. If they react in a way that causes you more stress, don’t be hard on yourself. Know that you tried to voice your concerns, and if things aren’t moving forward the way you’d like, speaking with a licensed therapist can help.

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Additionally, a person close to you may be struggling with the same in their own way. Consider asking them "How do you deal with stress?" - You may be surprised with the response you receive!

If work is consistently causing you to feel extremely stressed and anxious, it may be time to consider a job change.

Join Support Groups

There are many different kinds of support groups that you can join to help deal with unhealthy stress levels. For example, if you have a family relationship causing you stress, it may help you handle the negative effects of stress when you spend time with other people that are in a similar situation. Or if your stress is from losing a loved one, you may benefit from joining a grief support group.

There are many different types of groups you can join. If you’re unsure of ways to connect with a group in your area, you can ask a therapist or your doctor. Apart from standard medical advice, they can help connect you with local resources as well.

How To Deal With Stress At School

Stress and anxiety are becoming a growing problem for both high school and college students. There is a lot of pressure on people at this age level and that can lead to anxiety and depression when they don’t know healthy stress relief activities.

Depending on what aspect of school is causing you to stress, there are plenty of stress management options you can choose to feel better.

If the issue is rooting from test taking, take extra time out of your days to make sure you are studying proficiently. Oftentimes, the stress you feel comes from not being prepared for the test, rather than the test itself.

If you are struggling to focus, have a conversation with your teacher or school leader about it. You are not alone in your struggles and many schools have provisions in place to help.

How To Deal With Stress At Work

Many people experience feelings of stress around their career or work life balance. This type of stress can cause the same type of negative stress response – like high blood pressure, digestive trouble, poor sleep, negative impacts to your nervous system, and change in appetite – as other stressful situations. If you let this stress go unchecked for too long, you may find yourself dealing with anxiety and depression as well.

The good news is that the same techniques that you use to help with your stress response in other areas can help you with this area as well. You can try DIY techniques to alleviate your mental and physical symptoms of stress, like the ones shared above. However, if you’re having problems due to stress that impact your nervous system or blood pressure or other serious symptoms, seek medical advice from your healthcare provider. They can help you explore more evidence-based stress relieving techniques and medications if necessary.

Seek Professional Help

Even after trying just about everything you can think of or search online for, you may still need to recruit some help. The path to stress relief may not always be straight, and sometimes we all need a tour guide.

If you're wondering how to deal with stress, a trained therapist can be invaluable to your journey in learning how to deal with stress. There are so many ways that a professional can help you, if you are willing to take the first step!


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