As we navigate what the new 'normal' is going to look like, the uncertainty that surrounds us takes a toll on our emotions. But when we experience these daunting waves of emotion, there is hope. You can choose to be present, aware of the physical and emotional sensations, and decide at that moment to do something positive to change how you feel. In the darkest moments, we can find light if we're willing to stand still and be decisive.
Before we get to how to release stress, let's examine how stress shows up in the physical body. Emotions are easily ignored, but eventually, they become physical, tangible symptoms in the body.
Here are the most common ways stress impairs your body:
- High blood pressure
- Upset stomach
- Increased anxiety/panic attacks
- Chest pain
- Increased heart rate
- Lower body temp
Stress affects more than your physical and emotional bodies; it also impacts your wallet:
- 75-90% of all doctor visits are due to stress-related illness.
- Stress is the most common cause of long term illness resulting in missed work.
- 94% of full-time employees believe stress affects their job performance.
- Lost productivity due to stress cost American companies $300 billion in 2010.
The difference between stress and distress:
- Stress is a natural state of the body that keeps us alert and aware to avoid danger.
- Continued stress without relief or relaxation becomes negative stress or distress.
- Distress is the adverse effect of stress, which can cause physical symptoms, including high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, etc.
- This type of stress is typically the perception, real or imagined, that you have more to do than can be reasonably accomplished in the time available to you.
Common ways we add to stress unknowingly:
- Tobacco use
- Lack of exercise
- Alcohol consumption
- Recreational drug use
- Poor time management
- Setting unrealistic goals
- Anger and/or negative attitude
- Refuse support or help from anyone
- Dismiss relaxation or meditation as useless
Now that you have a better understanding of what stress is and how it adversely impacts your health let's explore ways to overcome stress in 10 simple steps:
- Breath Deeply. Close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply. When your lungs are full, hold the breath for a moment, and then slowly release. Repeat these steps at least three times until you begin to feel an improvement.
- Blow a bubble. It's believed that the simple act of chewing gum lowers anxiety and stress. Researchers are unsure why, but it's a quick and straightforward way to get some relief.
- Smile or laugh. Even a pretend smile lowers the heart rate and reduces stress in the muscles in your face, so grin and bear it!
- Talk to someone. Being able to confide in a friend will help get it off your chest. If you don't feel you can talk to friends or family, seek out a professional therapist or counselor.
- Smell good. Certain scents, like lavender, promote feelings of wellbeing. Light a candle or keep a bottle of your favorite scent nearby for quick relief.
- Tune in. Listening to soothing music has been shown to reduce stress hormones in the body. Next time you're feeling stressed, grab some headphones and tune in.
- Make a note of it. Writing your thoughts may be a great emotional outlet. Once you write it down, you can work on a plan to resolve the issue. The important thing is that you're honest with yourself about your feelings.
- Stop negative self-talk. We all have a chatterbox that sends us negative comments. Quiet this with compassionate, positive affirmations. "I can handle this situation easily." "Even though I'm not sure how I can get this done, I know I will."
- Hit the weights. Exercising releases natural endorphins that combat stress. Even working out gently will clear your head and leave you feeling refreshed & relaxed.
- Meditate. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can wipe away the day's stress and restore calm and inner peace. Not sure you can? Try a short, guided meditation and gradually lengthen the amount of time you stay quiet. Here is an option you can try.
Stay safe, calm, and self-aware. Practice some form of meditation daily to prevent stress from hijacking your day.