What Stress Is and How to Manage It Effectively
Stress is a normal and natural physical response. Stress is not always a bad thing but can be seen as useful when we are in basic survival mode. It’s a brilliant way to warn us when we are facing potential danger. During a stressful situation, our body activates its fight-or-flight system in order to keep us safe.
This phenomenon results in the release of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine so that the body can act and respond quickly in the face of a harmful situation. It causes increased blood flow to muscles, which results in higher heart rate and increased breathing to give us more energy to either fight the danger or run away to save our life.
The Effects of Modern-Day Stresses
We all have obligations to our family, friends, and our work. Many people are working more than one job to make ends meet. Working too much to provide for our family, meeting deadlines, and dealing with the demands of raising children are the causes of modern-day stress.
We are expected to do more than we are physically able to. Facing these challenges and not having time to take care of ourselves increases the stress level.
Experiencing constant stress for a long time causes the body to act as though it is facing a dangerous situation, which leads to it releasing more hormones and chemicals into the bloodstream. The elevated cortisol level leads to health issues such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, digestive issues, depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, auto-immune disease, and even cancer.
People respond to stressful situations differently. The effects of stress can manifest as physical, emotional, or behavioral issues. Some people may become agitated and demonstrate aggressive behaviors at home or work, creating unsafe environments and leading to violence. Others may choose addictive behaviors, such as drinking alcohol, eating too much food, shopping, or gambling.
I had many health issues growing up. Experiencing life challenges and stress manifested as different illnesses, such as auto-immune disease, and caused digestive issues, thyroid imbalance, pain, and depression. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired for many years, yet I didn’t know the cause or how to deal. However, once I learned about the effects of stress on my life and well-being, I decided to change my lifestyle and habits. Consequently, I am healthier and more productive in my personal and professional lives now.
How to Manage Stress
Although we may not be able to avoid stress, there are many ways to minimize and manage its effects.
1. Show gratitude
Focus on the present moment and be grateful for what you have. Take a few moments each morning before getting out of bed and at night before going to sleep to focus on the positive. Have the intention of creating a peaceful and productive day and a restful sleep. The more you focus on gratitude, the more positive experiences you will attract in your life.
2. Express your emotions
One of the most important ways to deal with the stress is to express your feelings and emotions in a healthy manner. Living in my birth country with its very strict culture, I had learned to keep everything bottled up. I was told not to tell anyone if I was upset, sick, or even unhappy. My only defense mechanism was to work harder to prove my worth.
Trying to become healthier, I realized I needed to express my emotions and find a healthy way to let go of the past. I had stuffed down many years of pain, which had manifested as physical pain all over my body.
Journaling helped me to express my feelings. Once I was able to express and release my feelings, I felt better and lighter.
3. Create healthy boundaries
It’s very important to have healthy boundaries. People are not mind readers. If you don’t have any boundaries, you will be tired and stressed. It is important to say yes to yourself, taking time to relax and rejuvenate. Saying no to what you can’t do or don’t want to do is a great way of creating healthy boundaries. You are the only one who knows what you can or can’t do. Taking care of yourself is a must and a key to managing your stress level.
4. Take time to play
I didn’t like a lot of physical exercises growing up, but I loved to dance. I was able to express myself in a way that was safe for me. It was my way of playing. Even to this day, every time I dance, I feel like a child.
Spending time and playing with my grand-daughters is absolutely a joy. It warms my heart to see them happy and healthy; to experience pure unconditional love is bliss!
No matter what play means to you, find a way to do so. Whether playing with your children, grandchildren, or even pets, just do it.
5. Participate in physical activity and exercise
I was elated to discover Jazzercise. It didn’t exercise to me, but music and dancing. Before Jazzercise, I used to walk a lot. I have loved walking since I was very young, especially walking on the beach. Walking helped me to calm down, find creative solutions, and connect with my spirit.
No matter what form of exercise you choose, make sure it’s something you like and enjoy. Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins, which result in triggering positive feelings in the body. The endorphins also interact with the brain receptors to reduce pain.
6. Connect with nature
I love outdoor activities. Whether it’s walking on the beach, hiking, or gardening, I am always happy when I connect with Mother Nature. It helps me to feel grounded, energized and re-connected with the powerful spirit within me.
7. Enjoy music or read a good book
Listening to positive and uplifting music has always made me feel good. No matter what you like—classical or rock and roll—music plays an important key in your well-being.
One reason I became an author was to transform lives. Whether it be with my first book, Angel Nightingale or my second book, Emerging You, when I receive messages from readers, I know Spirit has guided me to write.
Do you think Spirit is guiding you to listen to music and read?
8. Try guided imagery and meditation
I had a difficult time quieting my mind when I tried to meditate. However, when I learned about guided imagery, I discovered the best way to focus my mind. There are many different guided imagery and meditation CDs available these days. It really doesn’t matter which one you choose—they all will help you to feel serene and peaceful. choose, they help you to feel serene and peaceful.
When we are stressed, we hold our breath. Both meditation and guided imagery focus on breathing exercises, which allow the oxygenated blood to circulate to our internal organs, especially our brain.
9. Eat healthy food and pay attention to your nutrition
Preparing healthy food and paying attention to your nutrition are a must. Working as a home health nurse, as I do, require a lot of driving and I don’t often have a place to sit down and enjoy my meals. However, I have learned to be prepared. I have fruit, vegetables, nuts, and nutrition bars with me to munch on during the day to keep satiated and have more energy. Going without food leads to low blood sugar, which makes the body feel sluggish, and we eat much more when we get home.
Consuming more sugar and carbohydrates may make us feel good at first due to an increase in blood sugar, but then we crash down a few hours later. This increases the risk of insulin- resistant diabetes, heart issues, stroke, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.
Contrary to this, eating more leafy vegetables and protein helps to increase energy and stabilize moods.
10. Make use of complementary and alternative medicine
There are many ways to reduce and manage your stress. Massage, acupuncture, comfort touch, Reiki, aromatherapy, and hypnosis are very beneficial for stress management and overall well-being. As a nurse and certified hypnotherapist, I specialize in stress management techniques.
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