Stress is an unavoidable part of life — your responsibilities are demanding, you have bills to pay, and it never seems like there are enough hours in the day. But even though it may seem like you can’t get away from stress, you do have more control over it than you may realize. Learning how to prevent and cope with stress in a healthy way is not only important for your psychological health, it can improve your physical health and your overall quality of life.
Why is stress management important?
Stress affects more than your psychological and mental health — chronic stress can have detrimental effects on your physical health as well. Stress can cause anxiety, irritability, headaches, fatigue, and sleep problems, and if it goes on too long, stress can also lead to serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Learning how to get a handle on stress could even save you money — one study found that cardiac patients who participated in a stress management class had fewer cardiac events as well as lower medical costs over the next five years.
Identify sources of stress
Managing stress starts with identifying what’s causing it. This is often more difficult than it sounds. While major causes of stress — such as moving or going through a divorce — are easy to identify, sources of chronic stress can be harder to pin down. Try to take an honest look at how much your own actions contribute to your stress. It may be easy to blame your stress on a family member or a coworker, but have you made a genuine attempt to set boundaries with that person? Do you put up with a job you hate because you don’t think you can find anything else? Accepting responsibility for the role you play in your own stress is crucial to gaining control of it.
Keep a stress journal
Keeping track of the stressors in your life in a journal can help you identify patterns and triggers. When you notice yourself feeling stressed, write down how you feel, what triggered those feelings, how you responded, and what you could have done differently. The simple act of writing about a stressful situation can be therapeutic. Use your stress journal to help you identify what you can and can’t change about whatever it is that’s causing you stress, and develop a plan for changing what you have control over.
Adopt healthy coping strategies
Your stress journal can help you identify how you are currently coping with stress. It’s common to respond to stress in unhealthy ways like smoking, drinking, overeating, sleeping too much, or taking your stress out on others. If you find yourself turning to these or other damaging habits, stop and ask yourself if there is a better way you can respond to the situation. Try these stress-management techniques and see which are most effective for you:
- Meditation. Try guided meditations specifically designed for stress management, or just sit quietly and focus on your breath for several minutes. Meditation has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain, and it can even help preserve your brain as you age.
- Exercise. Activities such as walking, running, swimming, and yoga release mood-boosting endorphins. Even something as simple as a walk around the block can help reduce symptoms associated with stress.
- Develop a mantra. Reciting a simple mantra like “I am calm and in control” can help you deal with a difficult situation. Keep it positive, and repeat it silently to yourself or out loud if possible.
Be proactive about stress management
Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and good nutrition will not only improve your overall health, they’ll make you more resilient to stress over time. Don’t wait until a stressful situation occurs before taking action. Exercising in the morning will help you start the day stress-free. Taking a regular herbal supplement that helps control hormones related to stress can also help reduce feelings of irritability, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, and poor concentration.
Chemical imbalance can often lead to symptoms such as stress, irritability, and fatigue. Our UltraWellness Labs can help identify and treat these metabolic disruptions that may be keeping you from enjoying optimal health.
Request a no-cost consultation today to see how Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers can help!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on April 3, 2017