What Is Stress, and How to Manage It?

So, what is stress actually? Stress is your body’s way of responding to a challenge or demand. It’s often triggered by various factors ranging from small hassles to big challenges like losing a job or a sudden divorce.

Stress often includes physical components such as high blood pressure and increased heart rate. Other signs of stress include:

  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Negative self-talk
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Over or under eating
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Constant worry and anxiety
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Use of alcohol and recreational drugs

Can Stress Be Positive?

Stress is often associated with negative situations. However, stress can also stem from positive changes in one’s life.

For instance, a promotion at work may cause stress due to fear of the unknown and your ability to handle the change. Studies show that this type of stress is beneficial because it pushes one into better performance in various aspects of life.

However, stress is only helpful if you experience it for a short time. If you’re stressed for a prolonged period, it can lead to serious mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

What Happens to Your Body When You Experience Stress?

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. However, there are common symptoms that most people experience. These include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of sleep
  • Sweating
  • Hands shaking and trembling
  • Increased heart rate, among others.

These symptoms occur due to the overproduction of stress hormones released to help you deal with threats or pressures. It’s referred to as the “flight or fight” response.

Some of the hormones your body releases when you’re stressed are adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones increase your blood pressure, your heart rate, and the rate at which you sweat. Your body does this to prepare you for emergency response. These hormones may also reduce your stomach activity and rate of blood flow to your skin.

Another hormone released due to stress is cortisol. This hormone releases sugar and fat into your blood system to provide you with energy. For this reason, you may experience:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Pain
  • Muscle tension
  • And headaches.

If this goes on uninterrupted, you may be putting yourself at risk of heart attacks and stroke.

All these changes that happen in your body occur because your body is preparing you to escape a dangerous situation. The hormonal changes go back to normal when the “danger” has passed.

However, if you’re continually stressed, your body will have elevated amounts of these hormones, which can impact your health negatively.

What Are the Behavioral and Emotional Effects of Stress?

Stress also affects your behavior and emotions. You may feel anxious, irritable, and unworthy, which causes you to become tearful, withdrawn, and indecisive. It’s also not uncommon to snap at people, be more aggressive, and feel disconnected from others.

Some people start feeling sick because these negative emotions feed on each other and start producing physical symptoms.

10 Healthy Ways to Manage and Relieve Stress

Stress is a natural reaction to the things that happen around us. However, if you don’t deal with it in a healthy manner, it may have detrimental effects on your physical and mental well-being. Don’t let it get to that.

Here are effective ways on how to deal with stress.

1. Exercise

Physical activity is also an excellent way to deal with stress. When you exercise, your body releases feel-good hormones known as endorphins that improve your mood.

And you don’t have to sign up for a gym membership or run the marathon to enjoy these benefits. A simple exercise routine like walking around the neighborhood or jumping rope will suffice.

2. Eat Well

Your diet can also affect your mood. There’s scientific evidence that proves that maintaining a healthy diet has significant benefits for your mood and general well-being. Besides, you get to reduce your risk of diet-related diseases.

Ensure your meals are packed with vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, make sure every meal you have is a balanced diet containing healthy carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

3. Sleep

One of the effects of stress is lack of sleep. However, sleep deprivation may also cause stress. This continuous cycle makes your mind and body get out of whack, which eventually makes matters worse. The best way to deal with this is to get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

There are several things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene. These include:

  • Turning off the lights
  • Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule
  • Avoiding work and social media before bed
  • Adopting a relaxing night-time routine

4. Learn to Manage Your Time Better

Sometimes, stress stems from a lack of order in one’s life. If you’re juggling too much, it’s inevitable to be stressed. Find a better way to manage your time, and you’ll notice a reduction in your stress levels. Some of the things you can do to create a better work-life balance include:

  • Creating a priority list: Work on your projects based on their level of priority.
  • Avoid over-committing yourself: Do not schedule too many things back to back in an attempt to handle multiple things in one day.
  • Delegate: You don’t have to do everything by yourself. Delegate duties at work and home to reduce your load.
  • Break projects into smaller bits: This way, you’re handling manageable tasks every day instead of trying to do everything all at once.

5. Relaxation Techniques

Meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques are also scientifically proven to reduce and prevent stress. Mindfulness allows you to draw your attention to the present moment and stop obsessing on the past or the future. Meditation, on the other hand, quiets your mind and allows you to calm down.

You don’t have to be a meditation or mindfulness guru to benefit from these techniques. If you’re a beginner, you can use guided meditation apps and enjoy the benefits. It may take some practice, but you’ll feel better as you continue.

6. Make Time for Hobbies

It’s also crucial to set aside time to do the things you love. Doing so can be a great distraction. Besides, it’s therapeutic and improves your mood. Some of the hobbies you can try include:

  • Playing an instrument
  • Listening to music
  • Puzzles
  • Art projects
  • Board games
  • Knitting
  • Watching movies

7. Reduce Stress Triggers

If you’re continually dealing with stress and anxiety, the most effective stress management technique is identifying your triggers. Which area of your life causes you the most stress? Is it your home life, work, relationships, or school life?

If you can identify the cause of your stress, find ways to eliminate the cause or reduce it. If you’re not sure what’s causing your stress, start a stress journal.

Note down every time you feel stress and start paying attention to the patterns. When do you feel most stressed? Find ways to eliminate the cause of your stress or better ways to manage the problem and you’ll notice a significant difference.

8. Go Easy on Yourself

You’re human. No matter how hard you try, you can’t always do things perfectly. Accept this and know that it’s impossible to control every aspect of your life.

Also, make a habit of laughing through tough situations. Humor goes a long way in making things easier and manageable.

9. Connect to Others

The last thing you should do when you’re stressed is to isolate yourself. Isolation only makes feelings of anxiety and depression worse. During stressful, tough times, do your best to connect with your friends and family members. There’s nothing as comforting as being around people who make you feel loved, understood, and heard.

Besides, the interactions starve off stress because you’re distracted and having a good time. Time also passes faster. Not to mention, you get an opportunity to share your worries. In the process, you strengthen your bond with your loved ones.

10. Talk about Your Problems

They say a problem shared is half solved. This adage is true. When you share your problems, you feel better even if the other person doesn’t give a solution or opinion. The opportunity to offload your frustrations and worries eases your stress.

You can share with friends, relatives, or anyone else close to you. However, if you don’t feel comfortable sharing with your loved ones, talk therapy is an excellent alternative. A therapist is trained to offer you the treatment you need, and everything you say in the sessions stays private.

Wrapping Up

Stress is inevitable, and if you experience it short-term, it can even help you function and motivate you to cope with life challenges. But ongoing stress can have a negative impact on your physical and mental help, so you can’t afford to let it take over your life.

You should practice self-care and use relaxation techniques to manage stress in a healthy way.

If you’re constantly dealing with stress and feel down or anxious for several weeks or more, it’s advisable to seek help from a mental health professional. They will create an effective treatment plan and provide you with the necessary support and guidance.

Online therapy is a good alternative to traditional face-to-face sessions that allows you to get help from the comfort of your own home. Calmerry therapists can help you learn effective coping skills and be equipped to face the challenges of life in the future.

Kate Skurat

Kate Skurat

Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Washington, United States

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach. Read more