Coping with stress effectively can be a challenge. Stress is a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. However, how we respond to stress affects our overall well-being.
What are the symptoms of stress?
The symptoms may be physical or emotional. Common reactions to a stressful event can include:
- Feelings of fear, shock, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration.
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests.
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares, concentrating, and making decisions.
- Physical reactions include headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
- Worsening of chronic health problems.
- Worsening of mental health conditions.
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances.
Stress affects both the mind and the body. A little stress is good and can help us perform daily activities. Too much stress can cause physical and mental health problems. Learning how to cope with stress can help us feel less overwhelmed and support our mental and physical well-being.
How to cope with stress?
- Listen to music. If you’re overwhelmed by a stressful situation, try taking a break and listening to relaxing music. Playing calm music positively affects the brain and body, can lower blood pressure, and reduces cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.
- Talk it out with a friend. When stressed, take a break to call a friend and discuss your problems. Good relationships with friends and loved ones are essential to any healthy lifestyle.
- Eat right. Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related. When overwhelmed, we often forget to eat well and use sugary, fatty snack foods as a pick-me-up.
- Laugh it off. Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline levels. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy.
- Drink tea. A large dose of caffeine causes a short-term spike in blood pressure. It may also cause your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to go into overdrive. Instead of coffee or energy drinks, try green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants and theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system.
- Exercise (even for a minute). Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean power lifting at the gym or training for a marathon. A short walk around the office or standing up to stretch during a break at work can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation.
- Sleep better. Everyone knows stress can cause you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also a fundamental cause of stress. This vicious cycle causes the brain and body to get out of whack and only worsens with time.
- Breathe easy. The advice “take a deep breath” may seem cliché, but it holds regarding stress. While shallow breathing causes stress, deep breathing oxygenates your blood, helps center your body, and clears your mind.
Stress is part of being human and can help motivate you to get things done. Even high stress from serious illness, job loss, a death in the family, or a painful life event can be a natural part of life. You may feel down or anxious, and that’s normal, too, for a while.
When to consult a doctor for stress?
Consult an Intercare doctor if you feel down or anxious for several weeks or if it interferes with your home or work life. Therapy, medication, and other strategies can help.