If you’re experiencing a high level of stress, you might believe that stress is coming at you from all directions, that you can’t handle any more unexpected events, or that you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. These thoughts are common in those experiencing mental burnout and severe chronic stress.
Stress is a normal part of life, and the body is equipped with a stress response system to keep you safe in times of danger or risk. However, there can be a significant difference between dealing with the occasional stressful situation and being regularly overwhelmed with stress.
Learning how to identify what stress looks like and where it comes from can help you learn to cope when it arises. You’re not alone; many stress management techniques exist to combat these impacts.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a natural response to internal and external changes and threats. When stressed, hormones flood your body, and your fight-or-flight response kicks in. If you’re in a dangerous situation, like facing a dangerous animal, the stress response could save your life, giving you the energy to flee or fight back.
However, many people aren’t facing life-or-death situations daily. Instead, they may be coping with financial stress, challenges in the workplace, complicated relationships, and health concerns. Once stress levels increase, it can take hours for them to return to normal, as there is no release of the energy used to defend you. If you experience stress regularly, it can have a serious impact on your physical and mental health.
What Are The Symptoms Of Stress?
Stress can show up in unique ways for everyone. However, there are a few common symptoms that you may recognize if you deal with chronic stress, including but not limited to the following:
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Digestive issues
- Muscle tension or chronic pain
- Low sexual desire
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue or exhaustion
Stress doesn’t only impact your mental and emotional health—it can affect your physical health and behavior as well. You may notice that you are more irritable with others because your stress causes you to struggle with patience. You may constantly think about a stressful situation that leaves you on edge or causes you to struggle to finish a task at work.
If you try to ignore your stress instead of addressing it, it may continue to grow and cause new stressors to arise. For this reason, it can be essential to have techniques on hand to control your nervous system.
Stress Management Tips
There are many ways people relieve stress in their daily lives. If one method doesn’t work, another might. Try not to give up and remind yourself that stress is a physical process as much as an emotional one. For this reason, it is possible that controlling your nervous system can completely reduce the stress you experience. Below are a few techniques to try.
Identify The Causes Of Your Stress
If you don’t know why stress is occurring, it can be difficult to take steps to address it. Take time to inventory the events in your life. Are there certain parts of the day when you feel more stressed than others? Look at what’s happening around you to determine possible inciting events. You don’t have to take action immediately. Just list the events and consider them for the future.
Participate In Relaxing Activities
If life is busy and you feel you’re running from morning until night, you may not be making time to relax and recharge. Take time to unwind each day and partake in the activities that relax you and bring you enjoyment.
Self-care can look different for everyone. You might try reading a book, playing basketball, taking a hot bubble bath, or going for a run. If you’ve been neglecting this area for a long time, it may be difficult to remember what you enjoy doing. Keep trying different activities until you find what works best for you.
Adjust Your Calendar
You might experience significant stress because you struggle with time management skills. Maybe you feel overwhelmed at work, but you’re spending a lot of time on social media instead of accomplishing tasks. Contrarily, perhaps you struggle to correctly estimate the time it takes you to do a task.
Spending time tracking how long tasks take you to complete can be helpful. Once you have this information, you can plan your day more accurately instead of trying to accomplish more than reasonable.
It can also be beneficial to cut back on how much you schedule. Even if the activities on your calendar are fun, you might become stressed and overwhelmed if you pack them on top of each other. Take time to prioritize your tasks to see what needs immediate attention and what can be left for the next day. However, be careful not to procrastinate, as well.
Take A Break
If you’re under too much stress, your body may request a break from your routine. You might decide to take a sick day off from work or turn your phone off for the weekend to unplug for a few days. Finding a way to remove yourself from what is causing you stress can help you rest and recharge.
Taking time to journal your thoughts and emotions can help you unwind and relieve stress while gaining a new perspective on what is causing you stress. Putting your thoughts down on paper can help you let go of the stress associated with them, as studies indicate journaling is an effective form of expressive writing for improving mental health and wellness. You can journal when stress arises or make it a daily practice.
Talk To A Therapist
If you’re living with chronic stress, it may be helpful to talk with a therapist. A therapist can help you work through where your stress is coming from, spot unhealthy habits, and help you learn coping strategies to better manage your stress.
If you’ve been avoiding therapy due to the stress of adding more responsibilities to your schedule, you can also consider working with a therapist online through a platform like BetterHelp. Online therapy allows you to have your sessions from anywhere convenient for you, saving you the time of driving back and forth and helping you feel more comfortable.
Research shows that online therapy is effective at relieving stress, as well. One review showed that online therapy can significantly reduce the impact of stress and resulted in a 50% improvement in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and many other conditions.
What are the signs of too much stress?
While stress affects individuals differently, typical emotional signs include anxiety, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Physical symptoms may include headaches, muscle tension, and fatigue. Additionally, changes in sleep patterns, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping, can also be indicative of excessive stress.
What should you do if your stress is too much?
Prioritizing a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and sufficient sleep often serves as a crucial first step to manage stress in the long term. Immediate stress may be managed by employing relaxation techniques including, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, or yoga, which can help calm your mind and reduce stress levels.
What are the 5 stages of stress?
The "Stress Response Model" or five stages of stress, outline the typical stages a person goes through when experiencing stress; fight or flight, damage control, recovery, adaptation, and burnout.
What are 3 alarming signs of stress?
Three alarming signs of stress include chest pain, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attack. Prolonged stress increases the risk of heart attacks by promoting inflammation and plaque buildup in the arteries. If you experience these symptoms, seek medical help promptly to manage stress and protect your health.
Can stress make you sick?
Yes. Along with emotional symptoms and behavioral symptoms, stress can lead to physical symptoms like headaches and digestive issues. Chronic stress may weaken your immune system, increasing susceptibility to illnesses and worsening existing health conditions, including heart disease and mental health conditions.
What is a bad level of stress?
A “bad” level of stress often refers to long-term or chronic stress, which can lead to not getting enough sleep, low self-esteem, and various health issues, including anxiety and depression. Managing chronic stress with healthy coping mechanisms is essential for overall well-being.
How long does it take to recover from stress?
The time it takes to recover from stress varies depending on factors like its severity and duration. Short-term stress can resolve relatively quickly, while chronic stress may require more extended recovery. Managing stress through techniques like deep breathing, professional support, and healthy lifestyle changes can aid in recovery and prevent stress-related health problems.
Why can't I relax and enjoy life?
Struggling to relax and enjoy life can often result from a sense of losing control due to chronic stress or anxiety. Addressing this may involve identifying major stressors and developing healthy ways of coping, allowing you to regain a sense of control, relax, and enjoy life more fully.
Can a blood test detect stress?
While a blood test cannot directly measure stress, it can detect markers like elevated cortisol levels and inflammation which are often associated with chronic stress. Human services such as counseling and therapy may help individuals manage stress and address underlying causes, promoting well-being and reducing the risk of stress-related health issues like heart disease.
What is chronic stress?
Chronic stress is a persistent or prolonged state of tension caused by ongoing stress. It can last for months or years and is linked to various health issues, including anxiety, depression, cardiovascular problems, weakened immunity, and digestive disorders. Managing chronic stress involves relaxation techniques, lifestyle adjustments, seeking support, and addressing underlying causes.
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