This week’s blog post comes from Debbie Woodliffe, an experienced writer currently based in the UK working for Affinity Agency. She works with a range of clients such as Best Price Beds to help others learn and develop through informative content.
Everybody gets stressed. It could be work-based, home-based or just feeling overwhelmed in general – but it can hugely impact the way we function day-to-day. We’ve got International Stress Awareness Week coming up in November, so let’s look at how we can manage better in preparation:
· When is International Stress Awareness week?
· What is stress?
· How do you know you are stressed?
· How does stress affect the body?
· Ways you can manage stress
Don’t let stress take over your life – you deserve to feel rested, calm and enjoy life, so let’s get on top of it…
When is International Stress Awareness Week 2021?
International Stress Awareness Week has taken place each year since 2018. This year it lands between the 1st and the 5th of November, and it intends to raise awareness about stress and open the conversation around how to manage and prevent it.
What is stress?
We know that the stresses of life can cause you to want to tear your hair out or shout at inanimate objects, but what causes this feeling? Well, stress is a defence mechanism that kicks in when your brain perceives you to be under threat. It’s a natural defence against danger and floods the body with hormones that kick in the flight-or-fight response.
Some of the hormones released during this time are epinephrine and norepinephrine. These aim to improve your ability to deal with the perceived threat. So, when you’re stressed, you become more alert, your heart may start to race, and your blood pressure increases.
While this simple defence mechanism is an integral part of human evolution and has helped us hunt and escape predators in the past, it can become frustrating when your body and brain continue to overreact to lesser feats over which you have little to no control.
How do you know you’re stressed?
There are a few different types of stress, and they’re defined by variables such as time suffered or how it re-occurs. But in general, stress symptoms tend to look like:
· Increased agitation
· Feeling angry more often
· Cramps and muscle spasms
· Difficulty concentrating
· Inability to relax
The symptoms of stress overlap with other mood disorders like anxiety and depression, so it’s important to contact your doctor for advice if any of the above symptoms persist.
How does stress affect the body?
A certain level of stress in life is completely normal, and the fluctuations in hormones can equip your brain to come up with a quick solution. However, repeated instances of stress can lead your body to spend an extended amount of time in fight-or-flight mode, leading to problems like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
The extended production of stress hormones can cause havoc with multiple systems in the body, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and even your immune system. So, it’s best to learn how to manage and reduce these symptoms rather than live with them.
Ways you can manage stress
The good news is, over time, you can train your brain to reduce its stress response to certain triggers. The first thing to do is identify your stress triggers, write them down and then decide whether the situation is in your control.
Everybody’s triggers are different, but a few common ones include:
· Problems at work or school
· Family issues
· Relationship and communication concerns
· Health anxieties
· Financial things like debt or lack of income
The reality is, worrying about things you cannot control only feeds into the cycle of stress and accomplishes very little. If you have stressful thoughts about things you can’t control, such as the bus being late or how someone else thinks of you, ask yourself, which parts of the situation can you change?
Could you catch an earlier bus or cycle to where you need to go? Could you speak to the person or try and foster a good opinion? If there is nothing you can do, worrying about it will only cause more stress and harm in the long run.
Instead, try allowing the thoughts to enter your brain, but instead of arguing with them or trying to fix them, quietly observe each thought, and let them float past. It will take a little bit of practice, but you might find that you’re slowly training your brain to know that you are in charge of when you choose to accept stress.
To help take the power away from the stressful thoughts or triggers, notice where and when the feelings of stress arise and take deep breaths to stay calm. As your brain becomes less reactive to these triggers and stimulation, you may find it easier to slip into a blissfully chill state.
There are plenty of other steps you take to help manage stress, including:
· Eat a healthy, balanced diet (cut out the junk food!)
· Discuss with a trusted friend, family member or therapist for a neutral perspective
· Ensure you get at least 8 hours of sleep per night
· Quit smoking and reduce your alcohol intake
· Practice deep breathing alongside yoga or meditation
· Get regular exercise – even if a 10-minute walk around the block
Remember, stress is temporary, but it’s also natural. It’s just your body’s way of trying to protect itself. To manage better, try to adjust the things in your control (such as diet, exercise, and sleep). And learn to observe your thoughts without judgement when the situation is out of your control.
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