Managing Chronic Stress

Everyone has experienced stress or anxiety at some point in their lives. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) says the difference between them is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation, while anxiety is a reaction to the stress.

Many of us deal with stress on a daily basis with demanding bosses, interfering in-laws, unpaid bills, and high-maintenance kids. Some of the ways chronic stress can affect you are physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. If you are on stress overload, you may experience some of these symptoms:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Inability to focus and concentrate
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Stomach or bowel issues
  • Frequent colds or headaches
  • Rapid heart rate or chest pains
  • Change in sleeping or eating habits
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Neglecting or putting off responsibilities
  • Substance abuse

Effectively managing life’s overwhelming pressures will keep you from pulling your hair out and developing an anxiety disorder or depression. Here are some tips that may help you lower your stress level:

Get your beauty sleep: The wonders of a good night’s sleep can impact many areas of your life. Sticking to a bedtime routine with 7-9 hours of actual snooze time will help to reduce anxiety, and allow you to wake up feeling refreshed and energized.

Eat well-balanced meals: Cut out the processed foods and sugar, and include more fruits, vegetables and water in your diet. In today’s organically-obsessed environment, it’s easy to find healthy, delicious foods and snacks.

Take a time-out: If the weather is nice, take a walk. Being outdoors can help adjust anyone’s perspective. Reading a good book or watching an old movie can also help take your mind off things.

Get moving: In addition to making you feel good and maintaining your health, a light exercise regimen such as aerobics or yoga can also have a positive effect on how you feel overall.

Take a deep breath: Breathe deeply by inhaling slowly through your nose to the count of three; then exhaling through pursed lips counting to three again. Blowing bubbles is another way to reduce stress because of the deep breathing – plus it’s fun!

Identify your triggers: It helps knowing what can cause a spike your stress level so that you can anticipate certain situations. One way to do that is by keeping a journal – whether it’s a paper one or an online app. Jot down whenever you are feeling stressed or anxious and look for a pattern.

If you continue to have a difficult time managing chronic stress, it may be time to talk to a mental health professional. In addition to creating anxiety and/or depression, stress can also intensify other types of disorders and should not be left untreated. The sooner you take preventive measures, the sooner you can start enjoying a better quality of life.