Do you feel like your mind is constantly racing? You can barely keep your eyes open during the day, but have trouble falling asleep at night? If so, you might be like the majority of our population today allowing stress to run your life. One thing we have trouble within today’s society is stopping. We are always on the go and worrying about the next deadline we have to meet. Always worrying about the next thing can cause your body a lot of stress and can affect your mental and physical health. Don’t get me wrong, a little bit of stress can be good for you. Stress can be motivating and help push you to complete your tasks. But once stress starts to accumulate you may start to run into some problems. The good news is that you can prevent these problems by recognizing signs of stress.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE STRESS
Early warning signs can be different for each individual, but some of the common early symptoms are headaches, upset stomach, problems with sleep, and irritability. These symptoms are the first clue that your body is asking you to stop and take a break. If you do not take these symptoms seriously, stress can start to affect your concentration, immune system, work, and relationships.
LONGTERM EFFECTS OF STRESS
“It is believed that as much as 80% of all disease and illness is initiated and aggravated by stress.” –The National Safety Council Yikes! Hearing a statement like that should motivate all of us to start taking measures to decrease our stress levels. Overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can affect nearly all of your body systems. This can lead to:
- Digestion problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment.
MANAGE YOUR STRESS
So, now that we know that a little bit of stress is good, but that we should be looking out for our early warning signs that help us recognize stress overload, its time to learn a few tips and tricks on how to manage your stress.
- DIET: Make sure that you are eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and protein. Eating too much sugar and processed foods can add to your stress levels.
- BUILD A COMMUNITY: Spending time with positive like-minded people can help to enhance social connection and increase your pleasure hormones! In addition, unhealthy habits are contagious, so be sure to bring your new stress managing skills to your group.
- EXERCISE: exercising is not only good for your physical health, but it is also great for your mental health. Moving your body will release endorphins and can be a great outlet for any tension or aggression you may be holding on to.
- TIME MANAGEMENT: having a planner and prioritizing your schedule can do wonders for your stress levels. Manage your time and energy so that you can plan out your day and not feel overwhelmed with your “to-do” list.
- MEDITATE: take some time out of your day for quiet and relaxation. Meditating helps to be present and makes you aware of your thoughts and surroundings. You can practice with a one-minute meditation attached below to improve your quality of life and make you more present in this hectic world we live in.
- ASK FOR HELP: if you feel like stress and worry consumes your days and is impacting your quality of life, it is time to ask for help. A mental health provider can help identify the root cause and can help with treatment options to help you find relief.
A ONE MINUTE MEDITATION: from Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman page 4
- “Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes or lower your gaze.
- Focus your attention on your breath as it slows in and out of your body. Stay in touch with the different sensations of each in-breath and each out-breath. Observe the breath without looking for anything special to happen. There is no need to alter your breath in anyway.
- After a while your mind may wander. When you notice this, gently bring your attention back to your breath, without giving yourself a hard time - the act of realizing that your mind has wandered and bringing your attention back without criticizing yourself is central to the practice of mindfulness meditation.
- Your mind may eventually become calm like a still pond - or it may not. Even if you get a sense of absolute stillness, it may only be fleeting. If you feel angry or exasperated, notice that this may be fleeting too. Whatever happens, just allow it to be as it is.
- After a minute, let your eyes open and take in the room again.