Stress management is one of the most important topics we can discuss. Stress is a massive component in most Americans’ lives and significantly impacts mental health and well-being. To illustrate the huge impact that stress has, consider the following statistics:
- Over half (55%) of Americans are stressed during the day.
- Nearly all (94%) of workers report feeling stress at work.
- Stress causes 57% of US respondents to feel paralyzed.
- 63% of US workers are ready to quit their job to avoid work-related stress.
As you can see, stress is prevalent and usually has a negative impact on one’s quality of life. And the effects of high-stress levels aren’t relegated to one’s state of mind. Stress has many long-term physiological effects, including problems sleeping, headaches, increased risk of depression, loneliness, and suicide.
Immediate responses to stress include increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, faster breathing, muscular tension, and decreased immune function. Chronic stress is such a tremendous health risk that the American Heart Association has acknowledged its strain on the heart and the need to engage in successful stress management strategies.
The modern lifestyle makes it difficult to avoid stress. Therefore, stress management and knowing how to respond to stressful situations are vital in preventing the harmful effects of chronic stress on the body and mind.
Effective strategies for stress management or reducing stress include:
- Getting sufficient sleep. Good sleep can be promoted by blocking off time before bed to wind down without electronics, which keeps the mind stimulated.
- Promoting healthy living by ensuring your diet is packed with essential vitamins and minerals and limiting empty calories. Eating a whole-food diet is ideal.
- Exercising to control one’s cortisol levels.
- Engage in meditation or deep breathing exercises, which activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Consider relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, which can lower cortisol levels. Progressive muscle relaxation is done by tensing a group of muscles as you breathe in and releasing tension as you breathe out. The individual proceeds through one group of muscles at a time, progressively moving through different body areas. This technique can help to reduce stress.
- Another effective way to manage stress is submerging the body in cold water, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Reduce caffeine intake, which can increase feelings of anxiety.
- Seek positive social interactions with coworkers and loved ones. Avoiding relationships filled with conflict can be beneficial in some instances. Instead, deepen relationships with those who provide support.
- Set boundaries and say ‘no’ at work when something will induce excess stress, if possible. Do not over-commit yourself and prioritize tasks appropriately. If working on a large project, you can break it down into smaller steps, which often makes the entire project feel less intimidating.
- Accept that some events are outside of our control.
- Engage in better time management strategies.
- Continuing to learn and refine life skills, such as problem-solving.
- Learn a new hobby that can provide a mental break from stressful situations.
- Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to manage stress. In many instances, these habits can exacerbate existing stress.
- Seek healthcare when feeling ill. While many sources of stress are external, sometimes an underlying health condition may increase stress.
- Consult with a mental health professional trained in stress management. These individuals can help you identify ways to cope with the unique stressors in your life.
Undoubtedly, stress is a significant part of life for most individuals. Unfortunately, long-term, chronic stress can have many adverse health effects. Consulting with a mental health professional can be beneficial if other strategies for reducing stress have been ineffective.
Additionally, it’s vital to seek immediate medical treatment if you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, jaw or back pain, pain radiating into your shoulder or arm, sweating, dizziness, or nausea. These symptoms may be warning signs of a heart attack.
While there is no way to make stress disappear from your life, stress management can be the key to healthy living – no matter what stressors you face. The Mayo Clinic recommends paying attention to the causes of stress in your life and practicing relaxation techniques.
These strategies can help you counter some of the negative effects of stress and increase your ability to cope. Reducing stress can improve your quality of life and ability to focus and improve interpersonal relationships and self-control. Effective stress management can help you stay healthy and ensure you are ready to meet the challenges.
We at Memor Health want to help guide you back to optimal balance. We look at the person as a whole and consider all aspects when deciding on the best treatment for your mental health.