Stress is inevitable – We all experience it at different points in our lives, and we all handle it differently. If we can’t avoid stress, it’s important to learn stress management strategies to make sure we can deal with our stress in healthier ways and prevent burnout.
After all, not all stress is bad! Some pressure in daily life can help you meet challenges, motivate you, and help you become more resilient. But long-term stress can harm your health. So let’s learn how to deal with minor and significant stressful events head-on and know when to seek extra help.
The Most Common Symptoms of Stress
When you hear the word “Stress,” what does it make you feel in your body? Does it make your heart race, or do you want to crawl into bed and hide? Do you feel butterflies or a rock in your stomach? Do you reach for unhealthy foods, or does the thought of food repulse you? Stress can manifest in both physical and emotional symptoms. While stress is universal, the symptoms that show up are unique and different for everyone. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs of stress in your body, know when to prioritize coping mechanisms, and enlist the help of others, such as a health coach, therapist, or primary care provider.
Physical Signs of Stress
When you experience stress, your body responds to a real or perceived threat in your environment. Your nervous system reacts by activating the “fight, flight, or freeze” response.
Physical Symptoms of stress include:
- Muscle tension
- Increased blood pressure, heart rate, or palpitations
- Reflux, vomiting, stomachache, or bowel changes
Stress can even lower your immunity, making you more prone to getting sick. If you have chronic stress, your healthcare provider can evaluate the symptoms.
Emotional Signs of Stress
Your body is also flooded with the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol that impacts how you feel from head to toe.
Emotional signs of stress include:
- Anxiety or nerves
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed, angry, irritable, sad, or withdrawn
- Difficulty Sleeping
You are the only person who can determine whether stress is present in your life and how much it impacts your daily life. So next, use these tips to healthily cope with stressors that pop up. If you are a visual person, use a tool like a Stress Tracker to visualize your stress levels. You’ll be able to detect rising stress, whether your coping mechanisms are working, and if you are struggling with chronic high-stress levels.
5 Stress Management Tips
When you are experiencing stress, it is essential to take extra care of your body. Take practical steps to manage your stress and prevent its effects on your health.
Tip 1: Eat Better
It is tempting to eat sweets, carbs, and comfort food when you are stressed out. However, that isn’t the best strategy for your health. Instead, it would be best to focus on foods that reduce inflammation and cortisol in your body. These foods are high in vitamin B, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and probiotic-rich foods.
By proactively eating a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and fat–free or low–fat dairy products, you can prime your body with a strengthened immune system, stabilized mood, and proper fuel to neutralize stress.
Tip 2: Be More Active
Physical activity is a great stress reliever. While it may seem counterintuitive, a good sweat session can release tense muscles, reduces stress hormones in your body, stimulate the production of endorphins (the body’s natural painkiller and mood elevator), and improve your sleep. Exercise also keeps your body busy while giving your mind a break.
For example, a simple 20-minute walk around the neighborhood could clear your head, or you may try a kickboxing class to release some frustration. By making exercise a regular part of your routine, you can maintain a healthy weight, build stronger bones and muscles, and have a strategy for managing and relieving stress.
Tip 3: Sleep More
Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep! According to the CDC, adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for the best health and wellbeing, and over one-third of us don’t get the recommended amount. Healthy sleep also requires good quality, appropriate timing and regularity, and the absence of disturbances or disorders.
Here are some quick tips to get a good night’s sleep:
- First, be consistent with your sleep routine.
- Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool.
- Avoid caffeine, large meals, or alcohol intake around bedtime.
- Avoid screen time 30 minutes before trying to fall asleep.
When we experience decreased sleep quality, there is an increased risk of feeling mental distress. If you are regularly experiencing trouble with sleep, talk to your health coach or primary care physician.
Tip 4: Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness teaches you to appreciate the moment and observe the world around you without judgment. Being focused on the present moment can connect and ground you, allowing you to process your stress and feelings. Mindfulness practices include yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and gratitude journaling.
Download our Gratitude Journal Template Here
Now take a deep breath and relax your body, mind, and spirit.
Tip 5: Seek Treatment When Needed
There are varying levels to seeking treatment for stress. First, make sure you guard your time wisely by setting boundaries and your priorities, practicing time-management skills, and saying no when you are overextended. Then, when you feel stress creeping in, make sure you prioritize yourself and your needs with coping and healthy self-soothing mechanisms. Treat yourself to a massage, take a walk, drink a tea in silence, or listen to your favorite music to unwind. Be mindful of the things you can control and accept the things you can’t.
The next level is seeking out help from others. Surround yourself with family, friends, and loved ones. Seek out a trusted person to talk through how you are feeling. If you rely on alcohol, drugs, or other compulsive behavior to cope, talk to your health coach or family doctor about healthier alternatives to managing stress. If you reach a point where none of these steps are helping, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional.
Why Stress Management is Important
Unfortunately, Americans are one of the most stressed out groups globally. Job stress costs the US industry an average of more than $300 billion in losses due to absenteeism, diminished productivity, and accidents. In addition, one in four employees says they are at risk of burning out in the next 12 months.
Ready to get started? Take one of these tips and implement it into your routine. If you want to learn more, you can also watch our Care Team’s On-Demand Stress Buster presentation.