Stress Management 101: Everything you need to know about stress & how to manage it.

Stress isn’t just sitting in traffic or being late for a meeting. It’s not rushing towards a deadline for a paper or preparing for an audit; It’s so much more than that.

Stress has arguably some of the deadliest effects on the human body, causing numerous mental and physical issues.

Stress is everywhere. It can be found in many different forms, shapes, and sizes, and impacts people in varying ways. Some are fully capable and even experts in dealing with the effects of stress. Others aren’t. However, it’s not for a lack of resilience. Rather, it’s the scale of the physical and mental strain placed on us by chronic stress that alters our ability to cope.

Stress isn’t just sitting in traffic or being late for a meeting. It’s not rushing towards a deadline for a paper or preparing for an audit; It’s so much more than that.

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What’s the deal with stress?

We all deal with stress at some point in our lives. It’s as natural a part of life as breathing is. However, excessive stress is by no means good for us. If you feel like you’re stressed more often than not, then you might be dealing with chronic stress, which can exacerbate all manner of health issues.

But let’s start at the very beginning. What exactly is stress, where does it come from and why does it happen? Stress occurs as a natural response of the body to challenging situations. It occurs when we feel threatened. And the worst part? It doesn’t even have to be a real threat that we’re experiencing. We can feel stressed about imaginary scenarios of our own making.

When the body feels stressed it releases hormones, among which are cortisol and adrenaline. These trigger our ‘fight or flight’ response which prepares us to deal with the perceived threat. Be it real or imaginary. And when enter that state our body goes through several physiological changes.

  • An increase heart rate.
  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Feeling on high alert.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Reduced digestion.
  • Suppressed immune system.

But what happens if there is no threat? What do we do if our stress is ongoing, and occurs daily in the form or our job or other stressors?

Stress can be acute (short term) or chronic (occurring from repeated exposure to stress). When we continually deal with stress, and therefore our ‘misfiring’ fight or flight, we run the risk of physical and mental health conditions which can detrimental to our well-being.


How do i know if I’m feeling stressed?

It seems like such an odd question with an obvious answer. Surely you would know if you were suffering from stress or feeling on edge? But many continue to walk through stress head first, only stopping when they’ve reach complete burnout.

Stress can effect people in different ways, at different stages and as a result of different triggers. No two people are the same, and it’s important that you don’t compare your stress to that of others. If you’re unsure if you’re experiencing stress, here are a few things to watch out for.

Physical symptoms.

  • Headaches.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Unexplained muscle or joint pain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia or being unable to get a good nights sleep.
  • Changes in appetite, be it increased or decreased.
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea etc.
  • Frequent illnesses, often caused by a weakened immune system.

Emotional and behavioural changes.

Stress can have a serious impact on our mood and emotions. This could include things such as unexplained mood swings, irritability, increased anxiety, inability to rest, feeling overwhelmed, feeling depressed or low, and a lack of motivation. From personal experience, when I’m stressed I often want to switch off all forms of contact and hide away in a bid to help my overstimulated mind. Some might turn to substances to help cope with their stress such as alcohol or tobacco.

It’s also important to look out for ‘nervous‘ habits such as nail biting or fidgeting. While these may not necessarily mean stress or anxiety, they are some of the most common everyday signs.

Cognitive difficulties and psychological issues.

  • You might find it difficult to remember things, both long and short term
  • An inability to concentrate or focus due to your mind being elsewhere
  • You might find it hard to make decisions or solve problems
  • Stress can make pre-exisiting mental health conditions worse. It can exacerbate instances of anxiety, depression, OCD, eating disorders etc.

How can you manage the stress in your life?

Exercise.

One of the best ways to get rid of the acute feeling of stress, if you’re feeling it at the moment right now, is to get up, get out and go for a run. Exercise of any kind is known to be a great stress buster for a variety of reasons. One of the key reasons is the release of brain chemicals like endorphins that can serve as a natural mood booster, while also numbing the feelings of pain, which can include some of the stress-induced back or joint pains that often come with the condition. Implementing routine exercise in your lifestyle is great for a variety of reasons, but it’s particularly good in the fight against stress.

Breathing exercises.

When we’re feeling stressed, it can trigger our fright, flight, or fight response, which can make our breathing speed up, our heart beat faster, and our blood vessels restrict, which can bring on the panicky symptoms associated with it, as well as things like panic attacks. You can learn some breathing exercises which can effectively slow down and help you regain control of this response, allowing you to relax a lot faster than simply riding it out. Focusing and becoming aware of your breath can help you get away from this response, and is great for helping to prevent panic attacks.

Sleep.

The link between stress and sleep is complicated and long-lasting. If you’re feeling stressed, then you’re going to have a harder time sleeping with your mind going all night. If you have trouble sleeping, then your body can have trouble managing its production of cortisol, or what is commonly known as the stress hormone, which can leave you feeling more stressed. Trying to improve your quality of sleep by getting to bed in a routine way, avoiding screen-time late at night, and improving your sleep environment can be an effective way to reduce stress. Of course, seeking treatment for any underlying sleep disorders is vital, too.

Spend time with others.

Isolation can be a huge factor in increasing our stress response. Socializing isn’t just a pleasant experience, it has been known to release oxytocin in our brain, which can reduce the impact of cortisol on the body, and also serves as excellent stress relief. Surrounding yourself with close friends and family, and increasing physical contact can do a lot of good. If human company is hard to find, you might want to ask your doctor about service animals. Spending time with them might not sound like a lot, but it has proven hugely effective in the treatment of stress and anxiety disorders. 

Write it out.

Journaling has proven a very effective strategy in the treatment of stress and nervous disorders, as well. The logic is that when we’re stressed, we often tend to spend a lot of time in our head, experiencing thoughts and emotions, but not putting words to them, which can make them feel ever more present and intimidating. Writing them down can help us get some distance from them, put them outside of our heads, and can help us define them in concrete terms, which can help us come to terms with or solve them.

Talk it out.

Aside from seeking company that may be able to support you, as mentioned above, you might also want to find a trained professional who can help you talk about your issues. Much like journaling, talking about something can help you get a little distance from it, and you can also become much more aware of your thoughts and feelings. If you’re not able to get help as quickly as you would like through the healthcare system, there are also mental health charities that can help you find someone to talk to.

Consider underlying mental disorders.

Stress can often be linked to changes in your outside environment, but it can just as easily be driven by internal factors. Stress is a common coexisting condition alongside other mental health disorders, including mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, as well as disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. If you fit the other symptoms, such as restlessness and trouble focusing or organizing, then it may be time to seek out ADHD testing for adults. The right solution to stress can often include ensuring that you’re treating the conditions that might be underlying it.

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Talk to your GP.

Aside from considering the issues that might be causing stress without you knowing it, it’s always worth talking to your GP if you have been experiencing a lot of stress lately or have been stressed for a long time. They may be able to help the issue by referring to specialists, such as the diagnoses mentioned above, or they might be able to recommend medication, such as sleeping pills, antidepressants, or medications to treat some of the more acute side effects of stress, like high blood pressure or IBS.

Look at alternative therapies.

Medication, talk therapy, and looking for underlying conditions that you can more effectively treat once you’re aware of them are all well and good. However, some people feel like there are certain alternative or complementary therapies that can specifically aid their battle against stress. This includes things like acupuncture, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, massage, yoga, and meditation, as well as min

What can you do to recover from stress?

The time frame and means of recovery from stress depends on the person. While for some it may be a case of waiting for the stressors to pass, such as upcoming exams or a job interview, for others it mightn’t be as simple. In that case we’re going to look at some of the things you can do to recover from chronic, long-term stress.

Recovery from stress is similar to any other mental health condition. It takes time and a change in behaviour. After all, you can’t find peace in the same place that you lost it, right? You’ll need to learn to take a step back and evaluate what is causing you stress, and how it can be either eliminated or reduced. This could mean reaching out to others for help, delegating responsibilities and even seeking professional help.

Check out this infographic for more on how to recover from stress. Pin it or print it out to remind yourself!

I’ve covered various aspects of stress before, so why not check out these other blog posts?

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91 comments

  1. Stress is truly very harmful for everyone…completely do agree with every of your idea..Thanks for sharing this..this is great post and ideas and all of the information…

  2. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, pet. I’ve been struggling to manage mine too, but I find taking some time away from social media really helps! x

  3. This is such a great article and it’s so scary to think of the horrible things stress can do to us. I relate in that I’ve experienced so many stomach issues as a result of stress, and the vicious cycle of it is just horrendous. It’s so important to manage your stress properly – something I’ve been struggling with of late but I’ve definitely been finding that my daily pilates workouts help. Thanks for sharing xx

  4. Stress definitely affects more areas of our lives than people realise. Most ailments that are seen to be ‘just in your head’ have very real physical symptoms and it’s unfortunate that a lot of doctors don’t even recognise that.

  5. Managing stress, especially now that we’re all dealing with COVID, is a real and persistent struggle. I myself am trying hard to keep my spirits up and my stress down, but it’s not easy, and can lead to all sorts of physical symptoms and sickness. Great post!

  6. This is so true it doesnt help high blood pressure and that is no good! this is why i always tell my husband to talk and that he doesnt need to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.

  7. Stress is indeed a silent killer. But we can manage stress or find ways not to have them. It is in our control.

  8. Once I was feeling stressed my aunt told me the saying “whatever the mind is thinking and the heart is feeling, the body will follow” as a reminder for me to keep calm as stress greatly impacts our overall health. I hope you keep safe and healthy in these trying times xx

  9. Stress truly is the silent killer. I have definitely felt the effects of stress quite badly in the past and I am working to try to remove stress from my life.

  10. I found myself very stress last week but had to do some things to regroup and I feel much better.

  11. Stress is so bad for our health, yet knowing that causes more stress…ha! When I begin to feel myself stressing I remind myself that everything in life is temporary and even this stressful time will pass!

  12. Stress is definitely a factor into physical and mental health issues. You have great insight and back it up with facts. Love it. It is important to be mindful with our stress levels. Great article!!!!

  13. I’ve heard of so many people having strokes, heart attacks etc due to stress. Like I said in the post stress goes far beyond mental health.
    Thank you so much for reading. x

  14. I think all of us have issues not getting stressed. It’s learning to recognise it and mange it.
    Thank you so much for reading.

  15. I used to get headaches all the time. One was so bad it grew into a migraine which ended with me in hospital on oxygen. It was so horrible and the worst thing is that was just the beginning of my problems.

  16. I’m the same. I know how to manage stress but putting it into practice can be difficult.
    I’ve learned that I need to be easier on myself and recognise when I’m getting to a ‘burn out level.’ My main issues are recognising and acting before it’s too late.
    Sending lots of love. Thank you so much for reading.
    x

  17. I tend to overeat when stress gets the best of me. I found what works best is for me to go into my bedroom and watch TV or read for awhile to get my mind off things.

  18. Stress is so scary. I struggle really badly with it… Even though i know it’s manageable, i still end up spiraling further into it. A have an incredibly hard time relaxing.
    When i make sure to balance good eating, enough sleep, exercise, quiet time or meditation, productivity, and quality time with other people– all together in the same day, it becomes easier to manage and i feel more happy and relaxed. But it’s still so hard…and it’s easy to get even more stressed about managing to have a good day, even though i’m trying to do all those things for the sake of stress relief. It truly is crazy how cyclical it can be.
    I figure there’s something deeper going on in my head to make it as hard as it is…i just haven’t been able to find exactly what it is yet.

  19. You are right. My husband had a co-worker who was under so much stress at work and at home. He worked out like we all should, but the stress caused him to have a fatal heart attack. There are of course plenty of things to worry about, but not at the expense of our health. Thank you for this.

  20. I think we’re moving towards finding out how bad it is and how it needs to be reduced, especially in the workplace. But far more needs done!
    Thank you so much for reading. x

  21. Thank you for reading. I love meditation [when i can manage to shut my mind off] and a mild exercise like walking or yoga really helps untangle my mind.

  22. Stress is not a good thing at all. I try not to stress, even though sometimes one can’t help it.

  23. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I’m doing fine – very bored inside but also thankful to have a roof over my head! x

  24. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. It’s rather ironic that it’s stress awareness month and more than likely we’re all more stressed than ever!

  25. Say again for the people in the back!!!

    I’ll tell anyone who will listen about the negative impacts of stress and how they can take their pushy, ‘no boundaries’ ideas and shove them.

  26. Thank you for commenting. We’re all feeling stressed at the moment, no doubt. We can get through this!
    Sending you much love.

  27. I have that moment in my life when I’m really stressed. I hope it will pass soon because I have already problem with sleeping and eating

  28. Stress does lead to illness. Totally important to take care of your mental health!

  29. This is SO important. We live in a fast-paced society that pushes us to always do more, be more, achieve more… the level of stress that this puts on the average person is incredible. For some reason, this is considered ‘normal’ and accepted without actually discussing the impact that this can have on our health! Thank you for bringing this conversation to light.

  30. I meditate everyday . This has helped me reduce my stress a lot . During these difficult times , it is necessary to bring your mind and worry under control otherwise covid-19 will not be the only killer!

  31. We need to realise that stress needs to be acknowledged and handled . A lot of us just carry on and ignor the situation until things get out of hand .It is so important to self care .

  32. I get headaches and stomach aches from stress. It is good that you talked about how stress can cause problems and that we are not alone with how stress can effect us. Hope you stay healthy and well. xx

  33. It is crazy to me that April is Stress Awareness month and we are stuck at home. Luckily, the weather has been nice so we can get outside and get some fresh air. This is such an eye opening article about dealing with the stresses of daily life.

  34. Stress really does have negative impacts on both the mind and body. It’s so vital to take care of ourselves and take time out when we feel the stress building up. Thank you for sharing this important reminder, especially now as the world is full of so much worry and anxiety. Hope you are doing okay <3 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

  35. I do believe stress is a silent killer too I see how it affects my dad and his cancer. It greatly affects our immune system, esp those of us with compromised immune systems.

  36. How very appropriate that April is Stress Awareness Month when this April could be one of the most stressful months many people live through. It’s so important to find those coping techniques. I’m happy to say that I don’t get stressed very often xxx

  37. The stress is around the globe so, this real time article. I fully agree with you that the stress leads to many diseases. I also listen that stress is the cause of SUGAR.

  38. Stress can affect us in ways we cannot begin to fathom. Stress can increase an already underlying condition, send a preexisting disease into a flare…One needs to be very careful

  39. Great post Nxyie, it’s incredibly sad how much stress effects people negatively. When I worked nightshift in health care there was a lot of talk about drinking on off days. I think stressors in general is increasing and in turn people’s ability to cope is lessening.

  40. I have heard a lot about the connection between stress and health. I have always been a worrier and I just try to balance it out with some relaxation.

  41. I think your blog title sums it up – stress is the silent killer! Great job on tackling this subject and reminding us to create healthy habits to help cut down our stress.

  42. Stress has been a huge problem for me for most of my life. It takes constant effort to keep it under control. Maybe someday my life will settle enough for that to no longer be an issue.

  43. Stress really is so unhealthy yet many of us live with it every day. Unfortunately, I am a stress eater so the outcome is not always a good one!

  44. I can see stress causing illness. I need to take more deep breaths to stay unstressed

  45. I agree stress leads to illness in many. Staying happy in these days and times makes it hard to complete life without stress

  46. Stress is related to so many illnesses and also mood changes. I have to admit that I have been very stressed lately and I am looking for ways to be calmer and gain my patience back.

  47. Ugh yes, I have been stressed lately. I have been working on calming methods though. I find taking breaks helps me a ton. And reading!

  48. So glad that I came across your article. Will consciously manage and choose my stressors from now on.

  49. I have stress induced migraines that knock me out for at least a day so I know how stress can do damage! I learnt stress management due to that but it can be very hard sometimes!

  50. Stress caused by work, family or world events is causing havoc to our health. There are coping skills we need to practice because stress is unavoidable. How to handle stress is what we can control or manage.

  51. Stress management is really important. I also read that Covid-19 causes a lot of stress to people. That’s why we as bloggers can use this platform to suggest ways to help them cope with stress. I love how you emphasize that our body needs time to repair. We really need it.

  52. Stress is so bad for our health…I agree that it can lead to other diseases. I really hope that we get better at recognizing how dangerous it is and de-stigmatize it so that people can get help before it is too late.

  53. I really struggle with managing my stress. I feel a lot of the world around me, so sometimes it can be hard. I find that meditation and exercise really help me to deal though.

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