What Is Stress And How Can You Manage It?
There have been many headlines and conversations over the last few years talking about mental health and stress; so much so, The World Health Organisation claims there is an epidemic of stress. Kids are stressed, adults are stressed and in 2018, a survey showed that 74% of people had felt so stressed that they felt unable to cope.
To make things worse, 2020 has been a year filled with stressful events. This means it is likely that these stress figures are rising. So, if stress is here to stay, we should all make sure that we know what we mean when we talk about it. Then most importantly, we’ll explore some ways you can deal with stress.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a term that is used a lot, so it should be easy to define, right? I think we all know what it feels like, but that doesn’t make it easy to describe. There is no medical or psychological definition of stress and it is not classified an illness.
The best description of stress is that it is how we react to pressure or the feeling we get in tough situations. Sometimes that reaction can be beneficial. For example, the stress you feel before an interview can help to sharpen your awareness and keep you focussed. The pressure of the feeling of stress can help drive you through a challenging experience.
On the other hand, stress can be very detrimental; if we're stressed about work or finances and are always in a state of stress, it can be exhausting and lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and that we can’t cope. It is the effects of too much stress, for too long that really begin to harm our wellbeing.
So, for most, stress is a part of life. However, it becomes a problem when we don’t have the tools to deal with it.
Symptoms Of Too Much Stress
Longterm stress can have a considerable impact on your life. It can affect your mental health, which can cause you more stress, and it becomes a vicious cycle. This can leads to symptoms like:
- Emotional turmoil - anxiety, fear, anger, sadness and frustration
- Changes in behaviour - becoming withdrawn, irritability, difficulty sleeping, indecisiveness and inflexibility
- Physical symptoms - headaches, nausea, indigestion, hyperventilating, heart palpitations and pain.
Who Suffers From It?
Because stress is a natural part of life, every single person will experience it some form in their lifetime. Anyone can suffer from the impact of too much pressure. Some groups of people may be more at risk. For example, people struggling with debt or anyone with another health condition are more likely to experience higher levels of stress and anxiety daily. But, really anyone can regularly be overwhelmed by stress.
Can It Be Dealt With In Different Ways?
Everyone reacts to stress in different ways and we all get affected by stress in different ways. This means there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to dealing with it which is why it's good to have a few different tools in your armoury when you're getting overwhelmed.
How To Treat Stress
If stress is having a real adverse affect on your life, you should probably speak to a doctor. They are there to help you, and there is no shame in speaking to them. It can seem hard to talk to your doctor about something as intangible as stress, but they have tools to help you. The rise in discussions about mental health means there is no longer a stigma attached to it, so even if you don't speak to your doctor, maybe first of all reach out to your family of friends. A problem shared is a problem halved.
If you don’t feel your symptoms warrant speaking to a doctor, or you want to try something while you wait for an appointment, there are things you can try for yourself.
Exercise - While it might not seem the most logical suggestion, there is evidence that exercise can help you to manage your feelings and symptoms of stress. It will not make your stress go away, but the hormones that are released after exercise and for a time, stop or slow the production of the hormones associated with stress. It's also a really good opportunity to clear your head, check out our blog on Running and Mindfulness
Journaling - Writing down the negative thoughts in your head can be a way to silence them. Getting into the habit of writing down your feelings and what has caused you stress can improve your ability to deal with these feelings. Alternatively a gratitude journal could also help you appreciate the positives in your life, check out The 6 Minute Diary from UrBestSelf
Healthy Balanced Diet - Your diet can impact on your ability to deal with stress. For example, low levels of B vitamins can hurt your mood. So you could take a look at your diet and see what you might be missing in terms of key nutrients. You could try a supplement like Stressveda, which contains these critical nutrients to make it easy as well as KSM-66 Ashwagandha - a herb which is known for its ability to reduce stress and promote a calmer and happier sense of being.
Use A Wellness App - There are loads of great apps which can help you deal with stress. It can be helpful to know you have a tool on your phone to help you when you need it most. Some to consider are Happify, The Worry Tree and Calm.
We also have a full blog on some of our favourite wellness apps in the Sleep & Stress section of our blog