At some point we all experience stress. It’s an inescapable fact of life. In small doses, stress isn’t a bad thing. In fact, research has revealed encountering short periods of stress infrequently can be good for cognitive performance. However, problems begin to occur when stress becomes chronic.
Chronic stress is becoming all too common in the U.S. Doctors are greatly concerned with the rising levels of chronic stress in America and what it can mean for the future of people’s health. The 2017 “Stress in America: The State of Our Nation” report from the American Psychological Association found that a majority of people are particularly stressed out about the future of our nation, finances, and work.
When stress becomes chronic that’s when you begin to feel outward symptoms of the condition. Often we focus on managing the symptoms without realizing we also need to manage stress even more.
Managing the Symptoms of Stress
Chronic stress manifests in many ways, The symptoms of stress can range from blackout panic attacks to sweaty feet that can cause other problems like embarrassing odor and infections. Chronic stress can even increase glucocorticoid stress hormones in the brain and cause memory impairment.
The domino effect of all these symptoms can compromise your quality of life and increases your stress levels. That’s why it’s important to manage the symptoms of stress right away instead of letting them fester.
Pay attention to your body and know the common symptoms of chronic stress. If one or more of those symptoms are a frequent problem take steps to alleviate it, but also prepare yourself to manage the stress itself.
Managing Stress Itself
Treating the symptoms of stress can provide temporary relief. However, if you want long-term relief from all your symptoms the condition itself must be managed.
Managing stress as a mom may seem impossible. We’re constantly juggling too many balls and worried about our little ones. While it is impossible to avoid all stressors in life, there are ways you can get the condition under control so that it doesn’t become a chronic problem with daily physical symptoms.
Know Your Triggers
The first step to reducing stress is to identify what triggers it. Stress triggers are unique for everyone. It could be related to work, the demands at home, world events or even a particular person.
There are a few easy things you can do to identify triggers. First, keep a stress journal. It can be as simple as a note in your phone. Every time you begin to feel stressed note how you feel and what events occurred just before the stress. Keep the journal for about a week and you should notice trends. These trends point to your stress triggers.
Mindful meditation can also help you identify the sources of your stress. Meditation is the act of quieting the mind and getting more in tune with your body. All it takes is five minutes a day. In that time you can explore what it is you want to change in life to increase happiness while decreasing stress.
Once you’ve identified your triggers do your best to avoid them. That’s the first step to dramatically lowering your stress level.
Identify Relaxation Strategies
As soon as you feel stress coming on try to counteract the effects by relaxing. Like triggers, relaxation is different for everyone. Some people feel more at ease after taking a quiet walk in nature while others release tension at the batting cages.
Most everyone can benefit from meditation and breathing exercises. The beauty of breathing exercises is they provide immediate relief and can be done anywhere. The basic gist is to sit in a quiet place and take deep, slow breaths while counting as you inhale and exhale.
Enlist the Help of a Profession
In the past, there was a stigma connected to seeing a mental health therapist. People would silently struggle with stress and anxiety on their own, which often made the problem worse rather than better.
Fortunately, society has become more aware of the prevalence of stress and more accepting of getting professional help when you need it. Even Michael Phelps, the most awarded Olympian in history, has recently come out and spoken about his experience with mental health therapy.
Of course, it’s your right to not tell anyone you are getting help from a therapist if that’s what makes you most comfortable. What’s most important is that you get help when you need it. A therapist can help you identify your triggers and provide advice on ways to manage stress so you’re in control.