Stress causes overwhelm, makes you nervous and unhappy. This is why we always link it to something bad. But, stress isn’t a bad thing at all. If you don’t cross the limit and know how to cope with stressful things, a bit of stress is actually healthy.
That’s right. There’s such a thing as good stress and bad stress. In small doses, stress motivates you to push forward and complete your tasks. It’s also a vital part of your body that warns you and keeps you safe from harm. If you’re dealing with good stress, you don’t really need my help.
If you often feel stressed, you definitely need this article. Some serious health issues have been linked to bad stress, which is why you simply must learn how to cope with it before it harms you. But, before I get into explaining the tricks and tips, let’s define stress.
What is Stress?
Stress is a very frequently discussed topic, considering how common it is among people. It’s one of the most often assigned topics at school, especially when it comes to definition essays.
By definition, stress is a specific body’s reaction. Your body reacts to changes that require a response or an adjustment. When you’re stressed, your body reacts in different ways. The possible responses are physical, emotional, and mental.
How to Keep Stress from Stressing You Out
Clammy hands, trembling fingers, shallow breaths… Sounds familiar? That’s how your body reacts to stress. All these are dead giveaways that you are waging an internal war with your emotions and logic. But whether such overwhelming feeling of anxiety is due to a particularly difficult financial situation or an imminent danger, the body’s reaction to stress remains the same. You see, stress does not only spike up your blood pressure and make your heart beat erratically. Stress also triggers something that can prove just as damaging as a possible heart attack—the release of the hormone cortisol.
To give you just a brief overview of the hormone cortisol, you need to understand that it is the reason doctors refer to stress as the number ‘one’ killer. For one thing, it is the release of the hormone cortisol that leads to a suddenly high blood pressure for a stressed-out individual. Another thing is that the release of cortisol can lead to serious medical conditions such as depression.
You might be thinking now that the hormone cortisol is a bad idea for our body to release altogether. However, that is not entirely the case. The release of cortisol hormones in our system also triggers the adrenaline rush that characterizes our body’s reaction to panic. Such reaction keeps our body alert—either to fight or to take flight from the perceived danger. Without the adrenaline rush, you could not possibly carry out an instantaneous physical action in response to the danger you have perceived.
Cortisol, then, proves useful in cases where you have to fight the source of tension physically. However, we rarely do find ourselves in such tight spots, do we? Too much cortisol hormones in our bodies is therefore not a good thing for us whose stressors rarely require physical action. It is thus vital that we learn how to control our body’s response to stressors and find a way to relax immediately and keep the cortisol hormones at a minimum.
There are plenty of stress management methods that experts recommend. For this article, however, let us consider just five methods that scientific data supports for successfully dealing with stress.
10 Proven Tips for Coping with Stress
Before anything else, stress is a very normal part of a person’s life.
Therefore, my goal isn’t to make you happy all the time and not at all stressed about anything. Not that I could ever do it – it is our nature and our defense mechanism. I can, however, give you ten excellent tips that will help you avoid crossing that line when stress becomes unhealthy.
1. Physical Activity
Most of us have chosen to exercise at some point. For some, it’s a way to impress a woman. For others, it’s a way to improve their figure. But, physical activity is much more than a way to keep yourself into shape. Physical activity is the best thing you can do to fight off stress. By doing exercise, you’re letting off steam and reducing stress.
Knowing this, you can only imagine how great regular physical activity could be for you.
Let’s look at this from a technical perspective. When stressed, our bodies increase the level of cortisol and adrenaline, also referred to as stress hormones. These hormones are designed to protect people from immediate harm and various threats.
But, excessive stress remains unhealthy under any circumstance. This is why physical exercise is the perfect remedy – it can metabolize the excess hormones and make you calmer and more relaxed.
I’d recommend regular exercise but, if you can’t get yourself to do this on a daily basis, at least try physical exercise when you feel overly stressed. It will make a difference faster than you think.
- Go Out for a Brisk Walk
The classic response to a potentially explosive situation—a couple arguing over finances, for example—is walking out before things could get out of control. Walking out when you are experiencing extreme emotions is the wisest course to take if you want to prevent yourself from doing and saying things you are bound to regret. Scientists, however, urge you to do more than just walk out from a stressful situation. They urge you to keep walking, at least for ten more minutes. Why? Walking does not only give you the time to think about the situation but also allows your body to boost your endorphin level. A rise in the level of your endorphins consecutively lowers your cortisol levels, helping you calm down.
Walking also provides your body with a fresh supply of oxygen, which in turn helps your brain function optimally and thus helps you think straight. So, the next time you feel stressed, go out for a short walk, and you will find that it could make all the difference to your objectivity in such a stressful situation.
2. Regulate Your Breathing Pattern
Taking deep breaths is a common relaxation technique that I am pretty sure you are familiar with. However, do you fully understand how taking deep breaths could help you relax? If you do yoga, you are aware that your breath or pranayama plays a vital role in sustaining your body. Scientists will also tell you that deep breaths allow for a fresh supply of oxygen to enter your brain, helping it to function properly and come up with solutions.
Try to observe your normal breathing pattern. You will notice that deep breathing characterizes a feeling of serenity. So, when you take deep breaths during a stressful situation, you force your body to believe that it is calm. Once you take deep breaths, your parasympathetic reaction kicks in, allowing you to relax your frayed nerves. On the other hand, shallow breathing characterizes panic, which works to stimulate your sympathetic nervous system into action. Allowing panic to set in can prove disastrous, as your personal experience most likely proves. As you know, panicked people barely think; they just act—often, unwisely. So rein in your stress levels by taking the time to control your breathing.
Make breathing exercises a routine. Such exercises are beneficial even if you are not feeling particularly tense, as these help you lower your blood pressure and help repair the stress-related damage.
3. Stress Reduction Techniques
Meditation and yoga sound silly to many men. Some even see these as female types of exercise when compared to weight lifting and gym training. However, there are many tested and tried ways to reduce stress – and most of them prove to be in exactly this corner.
There are plenty of excellent stress reduction techniques you can try. Yoga is by far the most popular. Furthermore, you have meditation, breathing techniques, and even hypnosis.
4. Use your Imagination
I am sure you would agree that our minds have the tendency to become paranoid about things that do not present any danger yet. It is thus with good reason that a saying goes this way:
“The feeling of fear is often worse than the fear itself”
Indeed, our imagination can carry us far away from reality—something that can be negative if we let it. Often, the things we fear would happen do not happen at all, and we find that we have just worried too much. Needless to say, visualizing negative things can only produce harmful results.
However, you can also use your power to imagine as a way to counter your stress. For instance, if you feel that your stress levels are escalating to panic, close your eyes and conjure a vision of a peaceful scene. You may want to imagine yourself lying on the beach, listening to the melody of the waves and feeling the summer breeze on your face. You could imagine any scenario, as long as that scenario can help you feel peaceful. Allow your imagination to carry you away from your stressful reality until you find yourself breathing normally. Such guided imagery can help your body relax and, therefore, minimize your stress levels.
5. Carve Out Time for Hobbies
The things that make you most stressed are your responsibilities and obligations. When you’re asked to do something or need to take responsibility on a regular basis, it’s natural to start feeling overwhelmed.
Find a hobby you enjoy. Practice the sports you want, go out with your friends, or have some kind of a creative pursuit like art or reading. Engage in any activity that brings you joy at every free moment you get. This will be one of your best weapons against excessive stress.
There’s no better advice than this in life, especially when it comes to work. We all start in life thinking that we can do everything. Yes, it’s good to be persuasive and ambitious, but not up to a point where stress stands in your way. Sooner or later, you have to accept that you can’t – and should not have to – do everything on your own.
Learn to delegate. The sooner you do, the better it will be for you. I learned this while I was at school and couldn’t bear the pressure. I would order a paper or a project, sit back and relax, or attend a party. With time I realise that not only I don’t learn through that but it’s simply unfair towards those who study hard.
7. Avoid the Three Enemies
You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? I’m talking about those nasty habits most people have pursued at some point – alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. These are stimulants that will increase the stress, even if you feel like you need a smoke or a drink to reduce it.
If you can’t get rid of all of them right away, start by reducing the consumption. Swap it for healthy things and basically, start a healthier lifestyle. When you take bad care of yourself, stress is bound to happen.
Some of the best techniques for beating stress go back to the basics. Stress is emphasized, if not caused, by sleep deficiency or poor sleep habits. It goes the other way round, too. When you’re stressed, you cannot sleep well – or at all.
The solution is to start with sleep, the thing you can actually control much easier. You need a good sleep pattern – something that will get you sufficient sleep, quality sleep, and basically – a routine. Set your hours for sleeping and make a habit out of it. Make sure that your room is as tranquil as it can be so that you can enjoy a peaceful sleep.
After a while, you’ll notice that, when properly rested, we tend to be much calmer and happier throughout the day.
7. Manage Your Time
Have you noticed that most of your stress and anxiety happens because you don’t have time to finish things? This is why time management is an excellent tool to beat stress. I am betting that there are certain changes you can make in your schedule or work habits that would reduce the time you need to spend working, and basically allow you to function better.
It’s time to sit down and fix your to-do list, if you even have one. Write down what you need to do. Choose what you need to and can delegate. Prioritize what has to be done. Eliminate what doesn’t.
8. Take Control
When you feel like stress is getting the better of you, it’s time to take control. Face your problems and find the solution to them. If something is causing you stress for too long, it might be time to face the music and find a way to fix your problems. If you need help with it, ask your beloved ones to step in.
9. Say ‘No’
‘No’ is a magical word we often want to use, but choose not to. Well, it might not be good to say it too often since it might get you in trouble. But, if you feel like people are using you too much, you could definitely use some no’s.
In order to beat stress, you might have to fight ‘yes’. Try and say ‘no’ whenever you feel like it as long as it doesn’t make you irresponsible or mean.
10. Fill your Stomach
Have you ever felt the urge to eat something when you feel stressed? Scientists attribute such urge to the link between your gut and your brain, with your gut playing an important role in your body’s stress response. Filling your gut with food to address stress is, therefore, not necessarily a bad thing.
Of course, you need to watch what you eat. After all, you would not want to load your system with unhealthy calories, would you? Munch on a healthy snack—nuts, fruits, eggs, and while doing so, focus your senses on the taste and texture of what you are eating. Make sure that you enjoy your food as far away from your source of stress as possible. That way, you have made eating your form of meditation.
You may also find that a cup of tea—green tea, in particular, can calm your jittery nerves. How so? Green tea is a natural source of L-theanine an important substance that, in your body, can help induce calm without a sedative effect. So if you are feeling restless and overly anxious, take the time to munch on a healthy snack—maybe some whole-grain biscuits—and pour yourself a cup of tea. You will find that doing so can help you get a grip on yourself.
11. Talk to Someone
This is my final advice. If nothing of the above helps you, I urge you to take it. There’s no shame in talking with professionals. Stress is a very serious problem and can destroy your physical and mental health in an unimaginable way.
Don’t let that happen to you and stop the issues before they arise. If you feel like stress is too much for you, it’s time to get rid of it with the help of a professional.
The line between good stress and bad stress is really thin. If you feel stressed often, it will start affecting your behavior, your performance, and even your health. This is why you need all the help you can get to deal with it – these tips are an excellent start.
12. Go for a Digital Detox
Often, what causes us stress is the technology that surrounds us. For instance, an e-mail from your boss reminds you of an urgent task that freaks you out because your hands are still so full with other obligations. Your mobile phone then rings an alarm and notifies you about impending deadlines. Such notifications do pile up on you one stress after another, don’t you agree?
Are you aware that prolonged usage of computers can lead to depression as well as an increase in stress levels? How can that be? Regardless of what activity you are doing online—mindlessly surfing the Internet, checking your work e-mails, doing research—staying in front of the screen for a long time stresses your body physically. Studies show that those who use the computer for a long, uninterrupted period, as well as those who use it late at night, have problems with sleep. You do know that without enough sleep, your body cannot fully recuperate from the whole day strain.
So, here is a piece of advice. If you need to use the computer the entire day, make sure that you allow for some breaks in between. Also, make it your habit to log off your personal computer and other gadgets at least an hour before your bedtime to improve your quality of sleep. You may also want to go for a digital detox, that is, keep yourself gadget-free for a time. Many individuals have found that going gadget-free for a certain period of their week has helped them lower their stress levels.