There are 8 keys to manage stress effectively. When we face a stressful situation, our body’s natural response is to prepare ourselves to deal with the challenge. Our heart beats faster and blood flows to the muscles. We need to stand tall, face the situation head-on, and come out alive. The body’s reaction to stress is designed to protect us. But sometimes our reaction to stress goes beyond the call of duty.
The experience of stress is so ubiquitous that we barely realize when we’re experiencing it. The constant noise, crowded spaces, and obligations of modern life are all sources of stress. But when we’re under stress, our bodies may respond in ways that make us feel worse. We may feel irritable, anxious, or even sick.
Life is full of constant stress for most of us. The moment we wake up, we are confronted with a series of tasks and obligations that require our attention. The moment we go to sleep, we are faced with the myriad of thoughts and worries that our mind brings. Sometimes, the only respite we get is when we are asleep.
Signs and symptoms of excessive stress
There is no clear way to tell when stress levels are too high because stress affects us all differently. Although our stress levels can vary greatly from subtle to severe, there are many signs to look for. To begin with, if you feel you are under too much stress, you are. There are a number of other signs and symptoms that indicate high levels of stress besides emotional feelings. These include:
- Having frequent headaches
- Depression (the most common symptom)
- The tendency to sweat excessively
- A feeling of coldness in the hands and feet
- There is a tendency to bite your nails, pull your hair, or exhibit nerve tics
- Anger, frustration, irritability, and impatience
- Loss of appetite or binge eating
- Being overwhelmed, anxious, or panicked
- There are digestive issues (stomach cramps, diarrhoea, indigestion etc)
- Increased heart rate and palpitations
- Tension or twitching in the muscles
- Loss of memory and poor concentration
- Sexual dysfunction (low libido)
- Sleep abnormalities
- Exhaustion and fatigue
8 keys to manage stress effectively
Each of these 8 keys to manage stress effectively has its own unique set of interventions. These keys can be used independently or combined.
- Identify your stressors. The term “stressor” refers to situations and events that threaten a person’s well-being, especially when the challenges associated with them exceed their abilities and resources. Identifying the causes/sources of your stress and monitoring your stress levels is a critical step in stress management.
- Mindful meditation. Practicing mindfulness meditation means being fully aware of what is going on around you, while also connecting to your inner thoughts and feelings. During this practice, you learn to understand yourself objectively, without being influenced by your unconscious thoughts and feelings. The ability to be mindful is something that every human being already possesses, all you need to do is learn how to access and cultivate it. It only requires a quiet place, a few minutes of free time, and an attitude of “no judgment” to practice mindfulness meditation. While mindfulness meditation techniques may vary, most involve breathing and body awareness, as well as focusing on the present moment with an open mind.
- Breathing exercises. Stress can be relieved, reversed, and reduced with breathing exercises; an extremely simple, effective, and convenient method. By inhaling slowly and exhaling slowly, we’re signalling to our brains and bodies that we’re safe, that it needs to relax. The feeling of relaxation sets in within seconds. Deep-breathing exercises can be done anywhere and anytime, just like meditation. We can improve our feelings and reactions to situations by learning to pay attention to our breath.
- Physical exercises. Getting enough exercise and exercising regularly produces endorphins, which are natural painkillers. Exercise also improves sleep, which reduces stress. Exercise mimics the effects of stress, such as the flight or fight response, and can therefore provide stress relief to your body. Getting fit while reducing your stress can be achieved through any form of exercise. Your main goal should be to find an activity that you enjoy. There are many types of exercise you can do, including walking, running, cycling, climbing stairs, jogging, dancing, yoga, swimming and so on.
- Proper nutrition and adequate sleep. Stress causes us to make poor nutritional choices, which can increase stress levels and negatively affect our health. Fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine, sugary foods, and junk foods worsen the effects of stress on the body and should be avoided. Eating healthy foods; fruits and vegetables rich in fibre will reduce the effects of stress on the body while building up the immune system. One effective way to keep stress at bay is to eat healthy meals regularly. When you skip meals, the result is low blood sugar, higher cortisol levels, and slowed metabolism. Also, the quality and quantity of sleep we get daily plays a role on how our bodies respond to stress. To stay healthy and reduce stress 7-8hours uninterrupted sleep is recommended for adults.
- Visualization. The act of visualizing is simply the process of creating a mental image of something in order to convey a message. Researchers have found that it is an effective tool for managing stress. Visualizing yourself in a calm and relaxing situation is an effective way to cope with stress. If you vividly imagine yourself participating in an activity, your brain cannot differentiate between what you’re imagining and what you’re actually experiencing. Your mind also believes that you are experiencing what you imagine or visualize. This puts your body in a relaxed state by simulating how it would feel normally in that visualized environment. By visualizing positive outcomes, you can gain confidence to face challenges and break negative thought patterns. Additionally, visualization keeps you focused on your goals and allows you to get a clearer perspective on life.
- Time management. The purpose of time management is to maximize effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity by planning and controlling time spent on specific activities. Your productivity will increase while your stress levels will be reduced if you manage your time effectively. As a result, you are able to achieve a better balance between work and personal life. The following tips will help you manage your time effectively:
- Take the time to plan your day. Preparation is key. Start by making a clear and precise to-do list.
- List your to-dos in order of priority. To avoid wasting more time on less important tasks, put the most important tasks at the top of your list.
- Make large tasks manageable by breaking them down into smaller ones. It will be easier to accomplish tasks that appear enormous when they are broken into smaller tasks.
- Each task should have a time limit. Each task on your list should be given reasonable time.
- Don’t overwork yourself. learn to say no when the demand on you exceeds what you can handle, and also delegate tasks when necessary.
- Build and maintain healthy relationships. Having supportive and healthy relationships reduces stress and promotes physical health as well. Developing healthy relationships is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress, as it provides you with the opportunity to connect with others and receive support and love. However, it’s also pertinent to note that developing unhealthy relationships can cause stress, as it can drain your energy and cause you to feel isolated. In order to minimize the impact of unhealthy relationships on your mental health, it’s helpful to communicate with your loved ones when you need support. In addition, it’s helpful to set boundaries so that you don’t feel obligated to engage with them when you don’t want to. A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people with stronger social ties had a 29% reduced risk of experiencing a stroke compared to those with the least social ties. Growing old with the people you love and having the support of those around you will not only reduce your stress, but it will also make it easier to face the challenges of everyday life. Make sure you spend more time with the people who make you feel loved and valued.