10 Tips to Manage Stress
Stress is our body's natural response to a perceived challenge or threat. It is not only a part of life, but a necessary part of life. We rely on "good" stressors to improve our cognition and resilience. However, experiencing too much stress is a definite cause for concern and can be detrimental to overall health.
When in a stressful situation, an influx of cortisol, the body's main stress hormone, is released, stimulating the nervous system and activating our "fight or flight" response. Some of the body's automatic reactions include:
- Increased heart rate & blood pressure
- Shallow breathing
- Tensed muscles
- Heightened alertness
Good vs. Bad
- Eustress is positive, "good" stress that often motivates and leads to personal growth. Some examples include public speaking, starting a new job, getting married, having a child, or buying a house.
- Distress is negative, "bad" stress that may feel overwhelming and difficult to cope with. This is what most people are referring to when saying that they're stressed. This includes conflict at work, the death of a loved one, divorce, illness, and financial problems.
Short-term vs. Long-term
- Acute stress is short-term and happens in small doses. Since it is a part of normal, everyday life, our bodies are naturally good at handling this type of stress and we're able to recover quickly. Experiencing these daily stressors improves our stress response. Examples include being stuck in traffic, taking a test, having an argument, or going on a rollercoaster.
- Episodic acute stress occurs when acute stress is experienced regularly. Some attribute this to certain lifestyles and personalities. This can be exhausting for those who experience it.
- Chronic stress is long-term and can come from a significant event or repeated exposure to stressful situations. This ongoing stress takes a physical and emotional toll that can lead to health problems. Research has also linked chronic stress to heart disease. Examples include war, poverty, a dysfunctional family, or dissatisfying job.
Consequences of Stress
- Trouble sleeping
- Upset stomach
- Heart disease: high blood pressure, heart attack, stoke
- Mental health problems: anxiety, depression
- Weak immune system
Stress may also indirectly cause certain consequences such as weight gain and other physical ailments due to overeating or an increase in tobacco and alcohol consumption.
Ongoing yearly studies continue to reveal that stress levels of Americans have been steadily on the rise. To no one's surprise, data collected in 2020 and 2021 showed that a worldwide pandemic didn't help with that.
How to De-Stress 😌
Everyone perceives and reacts to stress differently. Some people may be more resilient than others. Here are some general tips that can be incorporated by anyone to help improve well-being and quality of life!
- Exercise: Simply going for a quick walk can give you a mood boost!
- Spend time with friends, family, & pets: Hugging and cuddling triggers oxytocin (the love hormone -- read more about it in our Science of Happiness blog). Pets can also reduce blood pressure, decrease cortisol levels, and encourage exercise; all of which contribute to heart health.
- Limit caffeine intake: Caffeine makes you more jittery, anxious, and restless, and has been shown to elevate cortisol levels.
- Get quality sleep: (Using these tips!) According to a 2013 survey, "adults who sleep fewer than 8 hours a night report higher stress levels than those who sleep at least 8 hours a night."
- Meditation/yoga/breathing exercises: Creates a state of relaxation and encourages mindfulness.
- Listen to music: A slow tempo can help you relax, while something more upbeat can promote feelings of optimism and positivity.
- Eat a healthy diet: Good nutrition builds up your body's strength and immunity and, in turn, can make you feel better about yourself.
- Take breaks from social media: Social comparisons, anxiety-inducing news cycles, a polarizing political climate, or even FOMO all add stress to your mental health.
- Take supplements: Vitamins & supplements can be the extra aid you need to help your body combat stress and anxiety.
- Try the 4 A's: Avoid, Alter, Accept, Adapt
We've got your stress control covered. 🧘
Pressures of your job and workplace conflicts are common stressors. See how you can optimize your space and reduce stress when working from home!