It is normal to experience stress when confronted with difficult and/or challenging situations. Increasing demands at home and at work can alert your brain’s alarm system that something is wrong. When your brain’s alarm system is tripped, it causes your body to release cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that evoke a “fight or fight” reaction in your body. Once the threat has passed, your brain “turns off” its internal alarm system and your hormones decrease. Due to the continual stress of everyday living, your brain rarely “shuts off” its internal alarm system therefore you almost always have some level of cortisol and adrenaline in your body.
It is important to reduce your stress level and reset your brain’s alarm system. When your body is constantly on high alert it can cause a myriad of psychological and physical health problems such as: high blood pressure, headaches/migraines and/or depression. In addition, high levels of stress can damage your relationships, interfere with your work performance and/or negatively affect your quality of life. It is imperative that you effectively manage your stress levels. It is important to note that while stress will always be a part of your life, a variety of stress management techniques can help you gain control of your emotions, reduce your stress level and cope more effectively with life’s trials and tribulations.
· Stress Relief Techniques
Make a Change
The first step you should take when trying to manage your stress levels is to make a change. Next, you will need to identify your stress-related triggers (relationship conflicts, work issues, financial problems, child-rearing challenges, medical concerns, etc.) and avoid them, remove yourself from the situation and/or learn ways to cope with them. It is important to note that positive experiences such as: a new marriage, baby and/or job can contribute to your stress levels. When you evaluate your stress-related triggers, take those factors into consideration as well.
A beneficial way to reduce and/or manage your stress is to breathe deeply. Deep breathing consists of taking deep breaths from your diaphragm (below your chest). This technique reduces stress by relaxing your muscles, clearing your mind and improving your focus. The next time you feel stressed, walk away from the situation, if possible, and take two or three deep breaths. If it does not work the first time, continue to take deep breaths until you feel calmer and more relaxed.
Another stress management technique that has shown success when reducing tension is meditation. Meditating removes stress from your body by calming your mind, balancing your moods, regulating your blood pressure, revitalizing your body, strengthening your immune system, increasing your flexibility, endurance and stamina and preventing bodily damage caused by toxins, diseases and viruses. Meditating also improves oxygen flow to your organs (heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, etc.). When you feel overwhelmed, tense and/or anxious, go to a quiet, free-from-distractions location and sit in a comfortable position. Once you are relaxed, think of a pleasant sound, word or thought for ten to twenty minutes. If you cannot think of a sound, word or thought, focus on your breathing patterns. At first you may have trouble focusing, but with continued practice, it will become easier for you and therefore, more effective at reducing your stress levels.
Write in a Journal
Writing in a journal also known as journaling, is an effective way to manage your stress levels. Writing in a journal or keeping a diary can help you identify your stress-related triggers and explore past and present feelings, emotions and/or thoughts. Journaling helps reduce stress by aiding in self-awareness, self-reflection and self-exploration. It helps you express your feelings in a way that you cannot, for some reason, do in your everyday life. If you are in therapy, your psychologist may ask you to document stressful events and experiences in a journal or diary. You and your psychologist will discuss your entries at your next session.
Exercising is a proven stress management technique.
Skating, jogging, working out at a gym, walking, swimming, martial arts, boxing and/or weight training can effectively boost your mood, release harmful toxins from your body, remove oxidative stress from your body, motivate you to be healthy and improve your mental, emotional and physical well-being. When you exercise, your body reduces its production of cortisol and adrenaline and increases its production of endorphins, therefore making you feel good and giving you a jolt of energy.
Jefferson, D. K. (2012). Stress relief today: Causes, effects, and management techniques that can improve your life. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform.
Mayo Clinic. (2013). Stress management. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-management/MY00435.