August 12, 2013
Today's post comes from our distinguished guest writer, Natasha Tracy. Natasha is the author of the Bipolar Burble, a blog about mental health and her personal experiences in managing Bipolar Disorder. She's an award-winning and influential writer, mental health advocate and self-professed "professional crazy person." Welcome Natasha!
Stress is a fact of life. Whether it’s arguing with your significant other, worrying over a final exam at school, or frustrated by how to discipline an unruly teen, stress happens and it happens to everyone.
While stress is a normal human reaction to some situations, some might argue that it can be an overreaction to regular events in our everyday lives. And that’s too bad because stress is not just a pain in the mind; it can also manifest as a pain in the body too. High blood pressure, stomach ulcers and immune deficiency are just a few of the problems associated with stress.
How can you tame everyday stress and avoid the negative, physical consequences of a constantly stressful life?
Recognize that Stress Can Be a Habit
Understand that many people are in the habit of being stressed out. There are actually certain benefits to this psychologically. For example, some might feel that they're more dedicated to their work if they’re visibly stressed about it. And most of us, having seen others like our parents stressed, internalize that kind of behavior as an appropriate way of being, even when we recognize it as harmful.
Identify the Stress in Your Life
The first step in dealing with our own stress reactions is to recognize we all have them. Identify what causes stress and what reactions you have. Perhaps a person feels stressed when they come home to an apartment where the dishes aren’t done and the children’s toys are all over the floor. Perhaps a partner in a relationship feels stressed when their sexual needs aren’t being met. Each person’s stressors are different and how stress manifests is often individual as well. It may result in irritation, frustration, an upset stomach or a headache. Writing down each stressor and the resultant physical and psychological symptoms of stress can help you get an accurate picture of stress in your life.
Manage Stress Directly with Obvious (and Less Obvious) Responses
Once you’ve identified the stressors and your reactions to them, it’s much easier to get a handle on how to deal with the root causes. Solutions start to become more apparent, if not right in front of your nose. If a messy home is particularly distressing, hiring a cleaner twice a week or creating a chore schedule might be the answer. If you’re finding some element of your relationship unsettling, working to develop an open and honest communication habit is likely the answer. And, of course, professionals like therapists can help you come up with effective coping techniques.
Easy Tips on Managing Stress
Taking good care of yourself is also key to keeping stress at bay. Try:
- Drinking more water – people are often chronically dehydrated and this can worsen feelings of stress
- Eating well – diets high in fiber and low in saturated fat can improve overall mood. A balanced diet will contain vitamins like B vitamins, known to prevent mood disorders
- Relaxation exercises – learning to deep breath, do relaxation exercises or yoga can help relieve the physical symptoms of stress
The Brain From Top to Bottom: Managing Stress, McGill University
4 Easy Stress Management Strategies, Psychology Today