Stress: the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure.1 If you are in school, have a job, bills to pay, or family/friends to care for, you probably deal with stress often. In other words, stress affects everyone and is almost unavoidable. Studies estimate that 84% of Americans deal with stress weekly. Check out this infographic on more stress-related statistics, brought to you by Value Penguin.
The first step of dealing with stress is recognizing the signs. When stress boils up, you will notice physical and psychological changes to your body. Physical symptoms include:
- Aches and pains
- Chest pain or increased heart rate
- Exhaustion or trouble sleeping
- Headaches, dizziness, or shaking
- High blood pressure
- Muscle tension
- Digestive problems
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Weakened immune system
Cognitive symptoms include:
- Low concentration
- Poor judgment
- Pessimistic thoughts
High levels of stress can also lead to changes in your behavior, such as irritability and mood swings, excessive drinking, or drug use, eating too much or too little, and compulsive spending or gambling.2
Next, you must determine what the causes of stress, or stressors, are. Stressors can be external or internal. External ones are often associated with negative life experiences, like an exhausting work schedule, or a failing relationship. But positive life events, such as marriage, a promotion, a new child on the way, going away to college, buying a house, etc., can also cause stress. Internal stress is often caused by excessive worrying about something that may or may not happen, or pessimistic thoughts about upcoming events. Any significant change in your life may bring a little stress, even if it’s the best thing to ever happen to you. The mind is a powerful and persuasive thing, but the key to beating stress is to gain control over it.
Tips for Managing Stress
Stress affects everyone differently, with some dealing with it better than others. If you are one of those who struggle with stress daily, this section is for you. Here are seven stress relief tips.
- Take a break and breathe
A recent survey showed that 65% of remote workers reported working more hours now than they did working in the office,3 escalating stress levels. This fact is concerning because work performance is measured in results, not time spent on a task; therefore, increased work hours are unnecessary and can impede productivity. Taking breaks throughout the workday can increase productivity, whether it be an hour, half-hour, 10 minutes, or even 20 seconds. Something as small as making a cup of coffee or watching a music video can break up the monotony of physically or mentally draining tasks, stretch tired muscles, and restore concentration. Upon returning to work or whatever task is in front of you, take a long deep breath to ease your mind back into work mode.
- Think positively
Thinking positively sounds simple, but it can be very challenging when dealing with hardships. Even when things are at their worst, there is always a bright spot in the situation. Here are two examples of this:
a. If you make a mistake at work, try to view it as a learning experience. Be thankful it was made at a time when the stakes were not so high, and it did not cost you your job.
b. You move in with your boyfriend/girlfriend of 3+ years. After living together for six months, you realize you’re not as compatible as you thought, and break up. You may be disappointed, but at least you discovered this before marriage or children were involved.
Try this technique the next time something goes wrong. Looking on the bright side can improve your overall mood and mental well-being.
- Talk it out
Many people are uncomfortable sharing their feelings with others, particularly about something negative, like feeling stressed. Reasons may include:
- Not wanting to burden or worry anyone
- Feeling ‘weak’
Yet studies have proven that talking about what makes you stressed can help mitigate the feeling. Whether a friend, family member, co-worker, or professional, getting it off your chest can be a huge stress relief. In addition, when others share their stress stories, it can reassure you that you are not the only one who feels this way.
- Make time for yourself
It is essential to take time for yourself and do the things that bring joy into your life. Take that long weekend and go on vacation; call the babysitter to watch the kids while you enjoy a night out on the town. These activities can help take your mind off your stress—even if it is just for one night. It can do wonders for your mental health.
- Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is necessary to help the body and mind recover and function properly the next day. Sleep can also serve as a great source of stress relief. Although seven to nine hours of sleep a night is recommended by health experts everywhere, one survey found that almost one-third (29%) of adults in the United States sleep for less than 6 hours each night.4 Sleep deprivation can lead to a never-ending cycle of tiredness, difficulty in performing basic daily tasks, and low self-esteem.
- Learn to accept your flaws
Although we often strive to be, no one is perfect. We all have flaws. The best thing we can do is not be too hard on ourselves and try to learn from our mistakes.
- Live in the now
Somewhere between living carelessly and being too conservative, there’s living in the moment is a valuable way to deal with stress. The future is intimidating, but no good comes from worrying your life away. Your mental well-being is more significant than any promotion or dollar earned. Try to enjoy today and not worry about things outside of your control.
Due to the impact stress can have on your mental and physical health, it is vitally important that you take steps to manage it. You cannot run away from stress; it must be faced head-on. By following our stress recognition and management advice, you can live a happier and more relaxed life!
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- “Stress.” Mental Health Foundation, 11 Nov. 2021, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stress#:~:text=Stress%20is%20the%20feeling%20of,with%20mental%20or%20emotional%20pressure.
- Smith, Melinda, et al. “Stress Symptoms, Signs, and Causes.” HelpGuide.org, 24 Mar. 2022, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes.htm.
- “Startling Remote Work Burnout Statistics (2022).” Apollo Technical LLC, 16 Jan. 2022, https://www.apollotechnical.com/remote-work-burnout-statistics/.
- “Mental Health: What Role Does Sleep Play?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/sleep-and-mental-health.