The past two-plus years have been very stressful for almost all of us. We have had to deal with a pandemic, working and attending classes from home and fearing for the health of our loved ones.
Regardless of the recent global events, stress is very common among adults, adolescents, and even children. It is a natural body response that can be helpful… except when it is not.
While it is best to seek professional help if you regularly experience extreme stress and anxiety, here are some ways you can manage your stress from home.
What Is Stress?
In its simplest form, stress is a subjective concept or feeling that differs from individual to individual. Because of this, it cannot be defined in quantitative terms by doctors or researchers.
On a biological level, however, it is a bodily response to external elements that are assumed by the brain to be threatening or dangerous.
Interaction with such external elements causes a release of hormones and chemicals in the body that lead to a flight or fight response. The primary “stress hormone” is called cortisol.
Stress is one of the basic evolutionary traits that is designed to help us confront and avoid danger. In increased levels, however, it can cause detrimental mental and physical health effects.
What Causes Stress?
While, during prehistoric times, stress helped early humans run from predators and stay alive, today, stress is caused by many different factors.
A few of the most common include:
- Life changes such as a big move or a new job.
- Work or school, such as pressure to complete projects or make certain grades and meet deadlines.
- Relationship problems, such as breakups or family disagreements.
- Financial problems, such as struggling to make money to cover essentials or having a lot of debt.
- Having a busy schedule and lots of essential responsibilities.
- Taking care of children or their family members.
- Dealing with illness or other related stressors.
- Mental health disorders can make daily life more difficult.
- Past traumatic experiences increase responses to stressors.
- Use of certain substances, including tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol.
The Effects of Stress
While, as aforementioned, stress can be beneficial, it can also be very detrimental to the body.
The stress response does not only cause mental symptoms. The high cortisol levels can also lead to physical symptoms, including:
- Increased heart rate and high blood pressure
- Sweating and hot or cold flashes
- Muscle tension
- Gastrointestinal or stomach discomfort
If you experience regularly heightened levels of stress, you may suffer more severe health problems, including:
- Heart and cardiac issues
- Mental health problems, like depression and negative thoughts
- Sleep difficulty
If you cannot manage stress on your own, it is best to consult with a doctor for further treatment.
Stress Management Techniques
While short-term and long-term stress can be both uncomfortable and detrimental to the body, there are many stress management techniques that you can try from home.
While this may sound like a cliche, getting organized is one of the best ways you can help manage and lower stress.
Our brains can quickly become overwhelmed by the number of tasks and information stored inside. Even a healthy brain cannot keep up with all that needs to be done and remembered.
Many modern stressors are often school, work, or financially related, and the best way to declutter your mind is by writing things down or making lists for all your tasks and expenses. While this may not work for everyone, it is worth a try!
It can also help to set goals and priorities and focus on getting what is most important to you done first. This way, you can avoid inundating yourself with items to do.
Although another cliche, it is a cliche for a reason! Exercise and physical activity can help improve your mood by getting your body moving and your mind off what is worrying you.
Exercise is great for your overall health and can help increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, which is one of the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood.
While it is recommended that you get 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, even a short walk in the middle of the day can help decrease your stress levels.
Get Enough Rest
Sleep is very important to all body functions, but especially mood and stress levels. This is because, without enough sleep, our brains are impaired and cannot assess situations properly, leading to heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
Because stress can also lead to a lack of sleep, it is essential that individuals who experience stress regularly make sure they are getting enough sleep.
To do so, make sure to avoid distractions and stressors before bedtime. It also helps to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Many different supplements can help aid more restful sleep, including melatonin and GABA.
Make Time for Yourself
Aside from getting rest at night, you must also get rest during the day.
Not taking a break from what makes you stressed and taking some time for yourself can increase stress and make it more difficult for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle balance.
Here are a few things you can incorporate into your daily routine to make some time for yourself and get stress relief throughout the day:
- Write in a gratitude journal and practice positive self-talk
- Practice deep breathing or belly breathing, yoga, or a form of meditation as relaxation techniques
- Try progressive muscle relaxation
- Pick up a hobby and devote a set amount of time to it during the week
- Focus on a balanced diet that supports your immune system
- Read a book or watch a television show you like
- Connect with others, hang out with a trusted friend, or visit family members
- Make yourself a warm cup of tea or soup and light your favorite candles
- Listen to music to get rid of negative energy
There is no one way to reduce stress that is effective for everyone. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Experiment and find what helps you relax, then make it a part of your unique routine!