Simple Ways to Recognize and Relieve Stress
How many times have you used the sentence “Oh, I have been feeling really stressed lately”?
In the past decade or so the term “stress” has become an integral part of our common vocabulary. When we face or perceive an external or internal threat we experience stress.
What causes stress?
Stress can be caused when we are in an actual threatening situation or facing conflict, which is what, helps us to survive but it can also be caused when we imagine we are in a dangerous situation which may in turn adversely affect our physical and mental health.
According to a PAN India Survey, conducted in 2019 it was found that the major causes of stress currently faced by the population is:
- A lack of work life balance
- Strained interpersonal relationships
- Financial instability
- Developed negative approach towards life and health concerns.
Stress can lower your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life.
Stress can be triggered due to a number of stressors present in our external environment like the society or the surroundings we live and work in.
The other reason can be our internal stressors like disturbances in our emotional, mental and physical well being.
When our body is in stress, our in-built response of fight or flight kicks in. This response helps us to stay alive in the face of an actual threat, but if our body stays in this situation of fight or flight for a longer duration then that gives rise to negative stress.
This negative stress is harmful for our body and impacts us physically as well as mentally.
Stress being classified as positive stress may lead to results such as high motivation, improved performance, whereas the negative stress could lead to mental and physical problems which might be short as well as long term.
Common symptoms of stress
A few indicators that can help you recognize emotional stress can be:
- Frequent Mood Swings
- Lack of Motivation
- Feelings of loneliness
This emotional deregulation also can be followed by Physiological disturbances or vice versa. Some of the indicators of physical stress can be as follows:
- Rapid heart beat
- High blood pressure
- Disturbed sleep pattern
- Disturbed appetite
Since COVID-19 struck, it has affected our professional as well as personal and social lives giving rise to pandemic related stress.
Stress has become a prominent factor in our lives due to this change in lifestyle and adapting to changes in our environment. Appropriate amount of stress helps us to stay motivated and cope better.
How does stress affect your health?
The way our body reacts to a stressful situation is by excreting cortisol hormone, which is also called the stress hormone through the adrenal cortex and releasing it into our bloodstream.
These hormones help people; prepare and deal with dangerous situations. However, if there is no outlet for this extra pent up energy then it can have adverse consequences.
People who are dealing with all these stressors may be left feeling emotionally and physically overwhelmed. The lack of knowledge of coping tools, strategies leads people to believe that there is a lack of helpful resources.
Stress management strategies
You can have more control over yourself than you might think. It is important to learn how to regulate our stress so that we can break the vicious and harmful cycle that we find ourselves stuck in.
Helpful stress management and reduction techniques assist us to have a healthier, happier and more productive life.
By practicing these techniques we can bring about the change that will enable us to balance our life goals, work on our relationships and meet challenging situations head on.
Compiled below are a few techniques and tools that you can try. Since all of us are different, different strategies may work for different people. Keep trying a few and stick to the ones that suit you best.
Fast-Acting and Immediate Stress Relief Strategies
1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a very popular technique used to help relax the muscles that can get tensed due to stress.
The Progressive muscle relaxation technique helps to relax the overall body. The process involved is two steps.
a) The first step involves tensing your muscle for a few seconds
b) Step two involves relaxing that tensed muscle. As your muscles relax, your body relaxes which in turn relaxes our mind and let go of the stress.
These steps are repeated throughout with different muscles of the body.
For example: Tense your neck and shoulder muscles, inhale take a deep breath and count to eight. Then you can exhale and relax.
2. Belly Breathing
When we are under stress or anxious then we tend to breathe shallowly or start experiencing breathlessness.
When take short and shallow breaths it limits our oxygen intake which makes our body stressed.
Belly breathing or deep breathing is a widely used practice to help regulate our emotions.
When we practice deep breathing we are more focused, it helps us relax and has a positive effect on our mind and body.
For example: You can start by sitting with your back straight in a relaxed position. This way our body is able to get sufficient oxygen which lowers our stress levels.
This technique involves breathing from the abdomen as opposed to shallow breathing as opposed to from your chest.
3. Guided Imagery
Using guided imagery can help a person process anxious feeling in calm manner and help them reduce stress.
It is a quick and easy technique which involves the following steps:
a) A person needs to first find a comfortable place. You can use a recliner chair or your bed.
b) Then close your eyes and imagine a scene which you consider to be peaceful and calm.
For example try and imagine yourself at the beach relaxing or at your favorite childhood spot.
c) When you find yourself there, ask your body to release the stress and tension and focus on your breathing.
You can also use sounds that are ambient and would accompany your imagery. You may feel more immersed in your environment.
It stimulates the muscles and helps relieve the stress that they hold and store.
By massaging our various stress points we can feel relaxed. The body mind connection is really strong, as our body relaxes so does our mind.
When we feel overstressed, relaxing our muscles through a series of body massage rituals helps unwind the stress that is stored in the body and relaxes the mind.
For example: One of the techniques that you can try is to learn how to release tension from your shoulders.
a) Stretch your right arm in front of you and then cross it across your body as it touches your left shoulder.
b) Now, in a circular motion massage muscle above your shoulder blade.
c) Repeat the exercise with the other shoulder as well.
Long-Term Stress-Relief Strategies for Lasting Health
- Don’t skip the important meals of your day like breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Have an Organized work space and plan your work priority wise.
- Multi-tasking may increase your stress, it is recommended to try and get one task done before moving on to the next.
- Try and reduce the noise level that may be present in your environment.
- If you like to watch news and stay updated make sure you do it in the morning as opposed to the night. This will reduce the cycle of disturbed sleep and help you sleep better.
- Pamper yourself the way you would pamper your spouse, partner or child. Treating yourself to things and activities every now and then helps you unwind.
- Practice the art of saying “no” when things get too much to deal with.
- Take deep breaths when you feel stressed for at least 5 minutes.
- Things don’t always go as we plan them, but that is okay. Practice acceptance and imbibe flexibility in your life.
- If spiritual, pray, speak to God, a higher power, or your inner guide.
- Practicing Mindfulness:
Being mindful is being completely present in the present moment. Mindfulness is a concept of positive psychology that teaches us how to be present in the moment and process our thoughts as opposed to over thinking or suppressing them.
You can practice the technique of mindful meditation in which people are encouraged to sit with their thoughts and process them rather than expecting them to have a thoughtless mind.
Some people tend to stress eat, practicing mindful eating helps the person focus completely on what they are eating, tasting each flavor and texture of the food and then slowly eating it.
It is always important to Keep in mind that these techniques may help you, but if they do not, then make sure to reach out to your general physician and a mental health professional for the purpose of evaluation.
Since the symptoms of stress can occur due to medical or deeper psychological issues it is always important that you let a health professional determine the next plan of action for your health.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Snowy Rahi, Psychologist
Ms. Rahi is a Psychologist, Her educational qualifications include M.A Clinical Psychology and Organizational Behaviour with a P.G Diploma in Guidance and Counselling.
She is the Founder of Sit With Rahi, a virtual counselling service and an awardee of all round achievement award in her graduation.
She aims to provide accessible and affordable mental health services for all. All her endeavors are focused towards creating awareness and acceptance one conversation at a time.
When she is not working she enjoys reading, researching and travelling.