Anxiety, depression, negativity, obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, headaches, heart problems, ... they are linked and the big culprit is STRESS.
Stress, as described by the NHS, "is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure.
Pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope. People have different ways of reacting to stress, so a situation that feels stressful to one person may be motivating to someone else.
Many of life’s demands can cause stress, particularly work, relationships and money problems. And, when you feel stressed, it can get in the way of sorting out these demands, or can even affect everything you do.
Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave and how your body works. In fact, common signs of stress include sleeping problems, sweating, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating.
You may feel anxious, irritable or low in self esteem, and you may have racing thoughts, worry constantly or go over things in your head. You may notice that you lose your temper more easily, drink more or act unreasonably.
You may also experience headaches, muscle tension or pain, or dizziness."
But, with some stressful situations being unavoidable, how do we manage the negative emotions of stress and turn them into something positive?
Ways To Manage Stress
What if you could stop yourself feeling stressed, wouldn't you take the opportunity? Some people secretly get pleasure from feeling sorry for themselves and will allow themselves to fall under pressure and wallow in their negativity. But, in reality, there are many situations in life, especially when it comes to work-related stress or job-related stress, where you could do something different and actually change the course of events, stopping you from feeling unnecessarily stressed.
If you can't change IT, change YOU
There are times when you simply can't avoid a stressful situation, for example, when you suffer from an unexpected loss. But that doesn't mean that you can't change the way in which you carry yourself. Changing yourself doesn't mean going against what you believe in, it just means that you change your outlook, the way you communicate and respond to those around you. One of the best examples is if you are a person who bottles up your emotions, to be more open about your feelings. Or you could work harder on compromising with others or, on the flip-side, being more assertive to get your points across.
Take a break
Taking a break can range from taking a year's sabbatical from work, having a week's holiday or just taking a 20 minute break during your day. What you do during your short break is up to you. You can have a nap, listen to music, do painting, or indulge in any other activities or hobbies that you calm you down. The key is to allow your body and/or mind to relax and feel positive and happy. Some people find a hard exercise session at the gym to be their zen space! If you are considering something more serious like a retreat or a long-term change in profession then you should really weigh up what it is you like doing and what it is that causes those negative feelings so you can make the best choice for you.
Take a breath
Breathing and being mindful of your body is not just good for mentality, it has been proven that de-stressing through breathing and clearing your mental space is beneficial to your overall wellbeing. The act of breathing calmly and slowly releases more oxygen into the brain which, in turn, improves your immune system and improves your heart rate and blood flow. You can learn how to take deep breaths from the diaphragm by going to a yoga class.
Similarly, quietening your mind and taking time to refresh the soul can bring great health benefits. You might like to practice meditation by sitting in a quiet place (or with meditation sounds or music playing), and repeating your deep breaths while maybe repeating a phrase that is meaningful to you and your current situation. Exerts say this sends healing hormones across your body.
Know your boundaries
If you've experienced acute stress in the past and have found your way out of the sea of negativity, then you must make sure you learn from the experience to ensure that you don't let your emotions spiral out of control again. By knowing your boundaries, you can recognise the early signs and symptoms of stress and know when to slow down. Some signs to look out for may be, aside from feeling low and under pressure, a change in diet, toilet habits or how much you are smoking.
Write down your feelings
Remember the days of keeping a diary? Well, journaling is said to be a great way of managing your emotions, particularly during times of stress when your head might be somewhat clouded. The idea is to write down your worries or negative emotions to prevent them from racing around in your head and instead removing them from your mind. You may be sceptical, but lots of people swear by it.
Don't forget, you can write down your positive emotions, dreams and aspirations too to show your gratitude for things in life!
Having fun is one of the best ways to deal with a difficult situation, as it allows you to let go and just forget about what has been stressing you out. It may not change anything, but if it makes you feel good for a few hours then surely it has got to be worth it?
Friends feed your soul and can keep your spiritual health topped up. What's more, good friends will want to be with you whether you are happy or sad and will be there for you if you need a shoulder to cry on or if you need someone to lead you astray!
Finally, keeping fit is as important to your mind as it is for your body, because a healthy body, diet and good sleep are all linked to your overall wellbeing. And it makes sense that a strong, well-nourished body is going to be better at fighting those negative feelings and coping with what they can do to you mentally and physically.
A regular exercise regime plays a key role in preventing the effects of stress, so you should take time to have even 30 minutes of physical activity a day. This can be just a stroll to the local shop or it can be a session of cross-fit. Either way, getting your heart pumping is going to do wonders for reducing your tension.
Want proof that exercise is a medicine for stress?
Harvard Health explains that:
"The mental benefits of aerobic exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the "runner's high" and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts — or, at least, the hot shower after your exercise is over.
Behavioral factors also contribute to the emotional benefits of exercise. As your waistline shrinks and your strength and stamina increase, your self-image will improve. You'll earn a sense of mastery and control, of pride and self-confidence. Your renewed vigor and energy will help you succeed in many tasks, and the discipline of regular exercise will help you achieve other important lifestyle goals.
Exercise and sports also provide opportunities to get away from it all and to either enjoy some solitude or to make friends and build networks."
Did you know also that there are exercise programmes set up to directly target the release of muscle tension?
As featured in the Oprah magazine:
"Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises
TRE® is an innovative series of exercises that assist the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of stress, tension and trauma. The exercises safely activate a natural reflex mechanism of shaking or vibrating that releases muscular tension, calming down the nervous system. When this muscular shaking/vibrating mechanism is activated in a safe and controlled environment, the body is encouraged to return back to a state of balance." - https://traumaprevention.com/
We hope that these ideas and strategies will help you to resolve any stressful situations that you might come up against, and will help you to better manage your emotions into the future!