In today’s fast-paced world, we’ve pretty much come to accept that stress is an inevitable part of our lives.
Stress affects our mental and physical wellbeing
Whether it’s due to work pressures, family responsibilities or personal challenges, stress manifests in various ways, affecting both our mental and physical well-being.
Recognizing these manifestations and implementing effective solutions is crucial for maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Burying your head in the sand is not a solution and you ignore stress at your own peril!
Whole books have been written about stress, but here we take a snapshot view of how stress can manifest, then explore practical solutions to build resilience against it.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Stress is not a one-size-fits-all concept; it can manifest differently from person to person. My Mum, for example, was an instant exploder – and after five minutes her stress was gone, vanished in the wind, as if nothing had happened. My father on the other hand, internalised stress until he eventually cracked, days, sometimes weeks later, and usually with a sore stomach to boot. Understanding how your stress manifests is the first step towards managing it effectively. Here are some common ways stress presents itself.
Stress can manifest itself in a multitude of ways physically and often takes a toll on our bodies. Headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and sleep disturbances are common physical signs of stress. The body’s “fight or flight” response, activated during stressful situations, can lead to increased heart rate and shallow breathing, which can further intensify these symptoms.
Stress can also lead to a rollercoaster of emotions. Anxiety, irritability, mood swings, and feelings of sadness or overwhelm are emotional manifestations of stress. These emotions can affect our relationships, work performance, and overall quality of life. To put it simply, stress sucks.
cognitive functions are compromised
Ever tried to do a day’s work when a whole bunch of big stuff was happening in your personal life? It’s tough going, and this is because our cognitive functions are compromised when we’re stressed. We might struggle with concentration, memory recall, and decision-making. Racing thoughts – “looping” thoughts as I personally experience them – and an inability to focus are common cognitive symptoms of stress.
Stress often influences our behavior. Some individuals might exhibit nervous habits like nail biting or pacing, while others might withdraw from social interactions. Unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating, smoking, or excessive alcohol consumption can also be a coping mechanism response to stress.
solutions for managing stress
It’s not all doom and gloom – there are practical ways to manage stress, and some can actually be fun!
Prioritizing physical health is essential for managing stress. Engage in regular exercise, such as yoga, jogging, or swimming, to release endorphins and reduce muscle tension. Practicing deep breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation can help activate the body’s relaxation response, counteracting the effects of the stress-induced “fight or flight” mode. Anyone who has read my other blog posts, knows that my go-to for stress relief is a bath. Submerging myself in hot water with essential oils and something relaxing to listen to is my perfect re-set – and why I created BathCalm in the first place!
build Emotional Resilience to stress
Developing emotional resilience can help you navigate stress better. Keep a journal to express your feelings and thoughts, allowing you to gain insight into your emotions. Seeking support from friends, family, or a therapist can provide an outlet for emotional release and valuable guidance in managing stress. Other than a bath, what I also find particularly helpful when the poo has hit the Panasonic is to just go have a nap. It’s a great way to take a break from what’s stressing me out and nine times out of ten, I usually feel better or at least more able to cope after a nap.
combat stress with Cognitive activities
To improve cognitive function, practice activities that stimulate your brain, such as puzzles, reading, or learning a new skill. Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps to enhance focus and decision-making. Creating a little ‘to-do’ list and ticking tasks off is a fantastic way to help you feel like you’re getting somewhere. It doesn’t matter how trivial the task is – you completed it and that’s an achievement when it feels your world is going to hell in a handbasket. Mindfulness meditation can also train your mind to stay present, reducing cognitive distractions caused by stress. There are some fantastic meditation and mindfulness channels out there and I guarantee you’ll find one that resonates with you.
Healthy behavioural choices
Replace unhealthy behaviors with positive ones. Engage in hobbies you enjoy, spend quality time with loved ones, and create a balanced daily routine. Avoid relying on substances like alcohol or junk food to cope with stress, as they will exacerbate the problem in the long run. Alcohol is a depressant, and while it may be a short term solution to help you feel better, its effect is quite the opposite in the long run.
Stress often arises from feeling overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities. Efficient time management can help alleviate this pressure. Prioritize tasks, set realistic goals, and delegate when possible. Break down larger projects into smaller, achievable steps to reduce stress and boost productivity. Remember too, that less is more! Taking an hour out of a busy schedule will help you become more productive and ‘in the flow’ once you feel refreshed.
Maintaining strong social connections is vital for managing stress. I feel like I’ve topped up my tank when I’ve seen my friends and family, they are like oxygen for me! Engage in regular social activities, join clubs or groups that align with your interests, and communicate openly with friends and family. Sharing your concerns and listening to others can foster a sense of belonging, reduce feelings of isolation and who knows – you could make someone else’s day, even though yours started out poorly. This is one of the most fulfilling way of building resilience against stress for me personally.
Seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If stress becomes overwhelming, consider consulting a mental health professional. Therapists can provide effective coping strategies tailored to your unique situation and guide you towards better stress management. A good therapist is worth their weight in gold and will do so much to help you move forward and deal with stress more effectively in the future. Fact: s**t is always going to happen and stress is inevitable – it’s how you respond to it that will affect your quality of life.
Stress is a universal experience, but by recognizing its various manifestations and implementing practical solutions, we can effectively manage its impact on our lives. Prioritizing physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being, adopting healthy behaviors, and seeking support when needed are key steps towards achieving a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle. Remember, stress is manageable, and with the right tools, you can regain control over your well-being, put mind over mayhem and lead a happier, more stress-resilient life.