Understanding and Managing Stress
By definition, stress occurs when excess pressure is applied on any point. Most often, when we talk about stress we are talking about mental stress. This is an external form of strain, tension or frustration that afflicts us mentally, causing us to feel overwhelmed or anxious.
Any thought, challenge or situation that pushes you out of your comfort zone can lead to stress. This includes aspects of life like your finances, career choices, schooling or relationships. Family members cause stress, illnesses cause stress and even our beloved pets can cause us stress. As all of this stress accumulates in your life, it can start having an impact on your health, even leading to consequences like weight gain and rapid aging.
Learning how to manage and cope with your stress in healthy ways is fundamental to living a healthy lifestyle.
Stress and Your Health
Stress manifests itself in different ways for different people. As stressors pile up and the symptoms of stress become chronic, it may negatively influence your health or overall well-being.
Some of the most common symptoms of stress include:
- Weight gain
- Chest pressure*
- Migraines or tension headaches
- Skin rash or acne
- Muscle spasms and tension
- Mood changes
- Excessive sweating
*It should be noted that while somewhat common, chest pressure may be an indication of serious illness and should be evaluated immediately by your doctor.
Symptoms like those listed above may become evident in the moment of experiencing stress. If stress is prolonged, more serious consequences can develop. If left untreated, stress can lead to high blood pressure, depression and even heart disease.
Learning to Manage Stress
Stress can be effectively managed through healthy lifestyle habits that can help you prevent, manage and cope with stress more efficiently. Taking the time to adopt these habits into your daily lifestyle can reduce the impact common stressors have on your life.
Some of the most beneficial stress management practices include:
- Being active daily by engaging in at least 30 minutes of physical activity
- Managing your time efficiently by prioritizing tasks
- Coping with stress in healthy ways like journaling or through talk therapy
- Vocalize your concerns and be upfront about issues you are having before they grow out of control
- Try to sleep at least eight hours every night
Taking care of yourself in these ways can promote improved mental and physical health, setting you up for greater success in managing stress even before stressors set in.