Stress is how your body reacts to a challenging or demanding situation. We often experience it as a feeling of emotional or physical tension, and often what triggers stress are events or thoughts that make us feel a sense of frustration, anger, or nervousness. We all need ways to relieve stress, no matter who we are or what job we do
A situation such as a job interview, date, work or school deadline, financial problems, the death of a loved one, or a frayed personal relationship can all be sources of significant stress. When we experience stress in short bursts, stress can be beneficial. That good stress, or eustress, can be positive because it can help you avoid danger or push you to work hard to meet a deadline.
When stress becomes a chronic problem – that is, when you feel stressed constantly and consistently, and you don’t relieve that stress – it can begin to affect your mental and emotional health. It also affects your productivity and relationships with loved ones. It’s important to address stress so that it doesn’t build up, and below are a few ways outlined for you to address stress in your life.
What Stress Can Do to You
When you’re stressed, your body and its various systems get you ready for action. When you’re having an acute stress response, your autonomic nervous system is activated and your body experiences increased levels of cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
This results in an increased heart rate, quickened breathing rate, your muscles tense up, and you have higher blood pressure. In the short term, this works for your body and prepares you to meet whatever challenge is in front of you.
However, over the long term, your body is placed under enormous strain. Some people may develop tension-type headaches and migraine headaches, which are associated with chronic muscle tension in the area of the shoulders, neck, and head. The impact of stress on one’s cardiovascular system may create problems for your heart and blood vessels, and stress can lead to an increase in the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.
For women, stress can have a negative impact on reproductive health. High levels of stress may lead to absent or irregular menstrual cycles, more painful periods, and changes in the length of an individual’s cycle. Not only this, but stress can also negatively impact a woman’s ability to get pregnant, the health of her pregnancy, and her adjustment postpartum.
For men, excess amounts of cortisol can affect the healthy functioning of their reproductive system. Chronic stress can affect testosterone production, resulting in a decline in one’s sex drive, and can even cause erectile dysfunction or sexual impotence.
When stressed, people will often eat much more or much less than usual. Consuming more or different types of foods, or an increase in the consumption and use of alcohol or tobacco can result in heartburn. Stress or exhaustion can also increase the severity of regularly occurring heartburn pain.
Stress can have these and many other negative effects on you and your body, and that’s why it’s important to reduce or relieve stress in your life.
Here are seven ways you can relieve stress to improve your quality of life.
Walk it off.
A great way to relieve stress is to get some exercise. Exercise helps your body process stress in a few ways. For one thing, it’s a way for you to work off any excess energy you may have. It’s a creative outlet for any racing thoughts by focusing on what you’re doing with your body and not what’s going on in your mind.
Exercise also has other benefits in that it reduces levels of your body’s stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol while it’s stimulating the production of endorphins. These are neurochemicals that function as the body’s natural painkillers and elevate your mood.
Keep on the sunny side.
Stress is a reaction to situations that we perceive a certain way. Stress can have positive benefits, but beyond a certain point, it begins to undermine your mental and emotional health.
One way to reduce stress is to try and see situations from a different perspective. If you see a date as a “make or break” type of situation, hyping things up to that extent will certainly make you stressed because there’s so much riding on it.
Jesus reminds us of the futility of worry and anxiety, pointing us toward the loving care of our heavenly Father. Even if our lives seem out of control, our trust in God and God’s good purposes for our lives can keep us from becoming consumed by what might be.
You can also have a sunnier outlook by relying upon a healthy social support network. Being able to talk with and hug your loved ones is a pure gift. When you have people and things in your life that are meaningful, that too can aid you in developing a perspective that takes in the bigger picture.
If we allow them, our loved ones can be a soothing balm in our lives. Having people to share your troubles and struggles with can also be invaluable for dealing with stress. Trouble shared may not necessarily be trouble halved, but it makes a difference to be able to process your life with someone else.
Learn to say no.
One way for people to get stressed is that they become overwhelmed by their workload. When you have a lot on your plate, it typically happens that the pressure you experience to complete all your tasks well causes stress. If you’re overwhelmed, or you feel you’re being taken for granted or being taken advantage of, that can stress you out.
Instead of dealing with that, you can lighten your own load by learning to say no to things and people. It’s not always easy to decline the requests people make of us, but it is often necessary in order for us to protect ourselves.
Saying no to other people can also sometimes mean saying no to yourself. Our ambition and drive can put us in situations where we take on more than we probably should. High-pressure stakes can induce stress, and if you’re consistently in a high-pressure environment but you don’t have ways to decompress and relieve stress, that stress can affect you negatively.
These words of Jesus ought to stand as a warning to us all: “And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions… So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:15, 21 ESV).
Put your life in order.
Another source of stress is when our commitments, capacity, and timeframes don’t align well. Stress can result when we fall behind on deadlines, can’t deliver as promised, or find ourselves juggling multiple tasks in the hope that things don’t come crashing down on us.
To avoid this trap, you can plan things out to help you preserve your capacity, meet deadlines well, and not juggle more than you can handle while maintaining a balanced life. Another key element to this is to kick procrastination to the curb. Not only does procrastination eat away at your time, but it often introduces stress into your workflow unnecessarily.
There’s a lot that can be said for having a good night’s rest and for being able to take naps when needed. Sleep is a blessed gift, but it is also a necessity for our bodies. Not only does good sleep help our bodies to break down the effects of stress such as the buildup of cortisol in our bodies, but it allows us to prepare our bodies and minds for the challenges that beset us every day.
Your problem-solving capacities, emotional intelligence, and other faculties are all markedly affected positively by good sleep. Taking naps and giving ourselves breaks is the best way to help ourselves.
Don’t sabotage yourself.
When we are feeling stressed, we can turn to various ways of relieving stress that aren’t always helpful. We can try to deal with stress by turning our anger towards others. We might turn to alcohol or recreational drugs to take the edge off. You might use caffeine or other stimulants to help you stay up and to give you energy.
Some people eat more food or starve themselves when they’re stressed, and that’s part of how they try to cope. All these things may seem like good ideas in the short term. After all, they seem to produce results. However, they each have downsides, some of them serious.
Instead, make a commitment to healthy eating. Try and avoid tobacco, caffeine, or the use of recreational drugs. The latter may appear to deal with stress by mellowing you out, but they can have other effects such as impairing your judgment.
Give yourself room.
In some things, you don’t have a choice of whether or not you get stressed. If the source of your stress is the death of a loved one, there’s very little one can do except go through the grieving process.
Give yourself the room you need to grieve well. If work is a high-stress environment, create that space either every day through mindfulness and other practices such as meditation, reflection, and practicing gratitude.
Christian Counseling for Stress Management
Need more help in managing your stress? A qualified Christian counselor can address the unique triggers you face and help you form a management plan. Check with us today to see how counseling can help you.
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