Stress Management – Effective Ways to Relax Your Mind and Body
Stress! This buzzword has become a part of our everyday lives. From major life events to routine tasks, we are surrounded by various types of stress with varying intensity. It undoubtedly impacts how we live. But is it always all bad?
It is said that everything in moderation is healthy. But does that apply to stress? In this article, let’s find out about different types of stress and how to relieve them.
What is Stress?
Stress is simply a biological response triggered by any situation. When the body is under any kind of strain, it gives out a reaction in the form of stress. That reaction can be physical, emotional, or mental. For example, stress gets our heart beating faster to make us focus on our immediate needs.
We, humans, have a fight-or-flight response. Stress triggers it, and the only decision we make at that time is to fight the stressor or run away from it. Do you remember facing a challenging situation? How much time did you take to adjust to the new situation?
Well, when faced with a difficult situation, hormones surge throughout the body to help us adjust to new situations. The way we deal with it is entirely subjective. Our prowess to cope depends on our genetics, personality, early life events, and social and economic circumstances. But do we get stressed only in a difficult situation? Let’s find out!
Is Stress Really All Bad?
Stress always gets the blame for many problems in our life whether it is mental, emotional, or physical. But, in reality, it isn’t necessarily all bad. There is good stress that psychologists refer to as “eustress.” It is a positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on our overall health.
Eustress happens when we are excited. Our heart beats fast, but there is no fear or threat. It can happen when we skydive, compete for a promotion, or go on a first date. Eustress makes us feel good about life.
When we have eustress, it impacts us emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Emotionally, it can result in positive feelings of contentment, inspiration, and motivation. Physically, it helps us build the body when we take the stress of a challenging workout. Psychologically, eustress builds us our resilience, self-worth, and autonomy.
We all feel stressed at certain points. The way we deal with it impacts our well-being. Moreover, stress for anything is subjective. For instance, some are paralyzed at the very thought of going on a rollercoaster, especially someone with motion sickness, while others love the thrill.
Stress, good or bad, is okay if it is temporary. However, severe, frequent, or prolonged stress can impact our health badly. We all must understand that life continues to be what it is, but we can learn to avoid stress when possible and manage it when it is inevitable.
Are There Different Types of Stress?
Yes, there are different types of stress depending on the intensity and duration. In general, stress is separated into three major buckets. Let’s look at them:
Acute stress happens to everyone. It is our body’s reaction to a new and challenging situation. Though it comes on quickly and throws us off balance, it doesn’t last too long. Acute stress shakes us up a bit, requiring a response from us. It can happen in situations like an exam for which we don’t feel adequately prepared, an argument with our loved ones, or when we narrowly escape a car accident.
Acute stress doesn’t normally harm us. This type of stress can come out of something that frightens us as well as from something that we enjoy. It is a frightening yet thrilling feeling, which sometimes is good for us. These situations can prepare us for developing the best response to future stressful situations.
However, acute stress may also occur as a consequence of sexual assaults or domestic violence. It can also be seen in people who experience terrorist incidents, war, or face major disasters. Hence, military personnel are at more risk for acute stress.
Symptoms of acute stress can develop quickly over minutes or hours. Generally, they settle quickly but sometimes can last for several days or weeks. There are some common symptoms of acute stress, including:
- Scaring easily
- Panic attacks
- Dissociation from the reality
- Retreating to an emotional distance from friends and family
- No memory of trauma
- Avoidance of things associated with trauma
- Being unaware of the surroundings
Acute stress for a long time can lead to episodic acute stress and can impact our health badly.
Episodic Acute Stress
When the frequency of acute stress increases, episodic acute stress takes place. This happens when we are often anxious about things in life. People with episodic acute stress often feel chaotic and go from one crisis to another.
The trigger can be certain professions such as firefighters, in which there are frequent high-stress situations. Even when we take on more responsibilities than we can manage, episodic stress gets triggered. This affects physical and mental well-being. Symptoms of episodic acute stress are:
- Uncontrolled anger and irritability
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Digestive Problems
- Frequent Panic Attacks
- Tightness in the muscles
- Unexplained pain in the body
Avoidance of these episodic stress symptoms can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and recurring headaches.
Chronic stress is a prolonged and consistent feeling of stress that affects both the mind and the body. This constant stress can lead to anxiety, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, depression, and even cardiovascular disease.
There are various symptoms of chronic stress, such as:
- Digestive Problems
- Changes in appetite
- Feeling helpless
- Low self-esteem
- Frequent infections or illnesses
- Rapid, disorganized thoughts
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of sexual desire
- A perceived loss of control
- Extreme Irritability
These symptoms are concerning and scary. Well, wait till you find out what makes our body stress hormones.
Causes of Stress
Everyone has different stress triggers. They can be related to the workplace, relationships, personal, financial, and more. Let’s look at some workplace and general life-related stress triggers:
Work Place Stress Triggers
46% of people say their core cause of stress is workload, states The American Institute of Stress. The workplace offers a variety of stress. Some of the workplace causes of stress are:
- Being unhappy in the job
- Working long hours
- Having poor management
- Working in dangerous situations
- Unclear expectations of work
- Facing discrimination at work, especially if the company isn’t supportive
- Heavy workload or too much responsibility
Life-Related Stress Triggers
Along with work, life stresses can create a huge impact on our stress levels. Some examples of life stresses are:
- Loss of a job
- Getting married
- Moving to a new home
- Chronic illness
- Emotional problems
- Traumatic events
- Financial insecurity or obligations
- The death of a loved one
Other Classification of Stressors
The causes of stress can also be classified as internal and external. Here internal causes include,
- Negative self-talk
- An all-or-nothing attitude
- Inability to accept uncertainty
- Rigid thinking and more!
In contrast, external causes include:
- Major life changes
- Relationship difficulties
- Being too busy
- Financial problems
- Work-related issues
The causes of stress are as varied as people are. Hence, there’s no end to it.
Now that we know what stress is, its types, symptoms, and causes, it’s time to dive into how to balance life with stress and ways to reduce it over time.
As we have seen, stress serves an essential purpose – it enhances our ability to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, prolonged stress negatively affects our health. Due to the modern lifestyle, avoiding stress seems impossible. The way out is to find a balance and manage stress in healthy ways. Here are some of them:
When taken under the guidance and appropriate amount, supplements can help us reduce stress and promote the overall well-being. Let’s look at some of the common ones in brief:
The well-known supplement for stress reduction and enhancing well-being is Ashwagandha. It is an ayurvedic herb, used as a broad-spectrum remedy in India for centuries. There are many forms of taking it. One is the Ashwagandha Powder.
Ginseng is traditionally used as a medicinal herb in Korea, Japan, China, and the United States. It effectively regulates the immune response and the hormonal changes due to stress. Ginseng is available in many forms. One of them is capsules which have proved to combat fatigue as well.
- Green Tea
Green tea is known to increase serotonin levels, which lowers stress and anxiety. It contains polyphenol antioxidants which provide many health benefits. Green tea is commonly available to all online and offline stores. Here are some of our recommendations: Bigelow Green Tea Bags, Organic Green Tea Bags, and Lipton Tea Bags.
- Anxiety Soother
It is an essential oil that features kava and passionflower to reduce anxiety. This essential oil is intensely floral, aromatic, and moderately bitter. Anxiety soother can be taken in liquid form.
In addition to providing physical wellness, exercise has proven to be a helpful way to combat stress. Yes, it is contradictory but true. Putting physical stress on the body can help us relieve the mental stress.
There are many reasons behind this. One is the release of the hormones that happen during exercise. Endorphins get secreted during exercise, which are chemicals to improve the mood and act as natural painkillers. Hence, it relieves stress.
Additionally, exercise improves sleep quality and, if done consistently, makes us feel more confident and competent in our body, promoting the well-being.
Reduce the Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a stimulant found in tea, coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks. High doses of it can increase anxiety. Different people have different thresholds for caffeine. If it makes us anxious, it is better to take a step back and consider a moderate amount.
Spend time with friends and family
Social support from people with mutual love and care is always beneficial. Being part of a group gives us a sense of belonging and self-worth. Supportive people can only help us get out of anxiety or reduce it.
There’s an effect called “tend and befriend,” meaning spending time with friends and family, which is quite the opposite of the fight-or-flight response. One study found that when this effect is applied, especially to women, it releases oxytocin, a natural stress reliever hormone.
All the gender benefit from friendship, and it is better to keep ourself in healthy friendships and environments during stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness is a practice that anchors us to the present moment. It helps counter the negative thoughts and give our overthinking brain a break. There are many benefits of being mindful, like instead of immediately reacting to a situation, we use our minds to come up with a solution.
Mindfulness reduces the stress activity in our brain, and focus improves. We become more aware of our thoughts by switching on “being” mode which is associated with relaxation. Our care and compassion for ourselves and others increases. Hence, being mindful reduces stress and enhances the quality of life.
Listen to Music, Write, or Do What We Love
Doing something that we love is highly helpful. Whether it is listening to music, going on a walk, writing, or reading, make sure you take out time to do it. Activities that we like to do helps us in relaxing our nervous system and calm our thoughts down.
You can make a daily ritual of doing something you love either in the morning or the night. Forming a routine that you enjoy always makes you centered and aware of the present moment.
When in fight-or-flight mode, focusing on our breath helps. Our parasympathetic nervous system gets activated with deep breathing exercises, which is responsible for the relaxation response.
There are various deep breathing exercises. The goal of all of them is to make our breathing slower and deeper. When this happens, our lungs fully expand, and our belly rises, slowing our heart rate and making us more peaceful.
The Bottom Line
Stress hormones in moderation are necessary for survival. But, if they go out of control and rule your life, it’s the indication to take action. So, it is better to control the stress using the healthy ways mentioned in this blog rather than waiting for the stress to go away from your life. Because let’s be honest, that isn’t happening soon. Hence, at Botano, we have curated a subscription box dedicated to relieving your stress and anxiety. Check it out here!