Stress serves an important purpose—it enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties or increased physical health problems. A large body of research suggests that increased stress levels interfere with your ability to deal with physical illness. While no one can avoid all stress, you can work to handle it in healthy ways that increase your potential to recover.
The first step to overcoming such negative feelings is to recognize that you are experiencing a very common emotional state most commonly identified as anxiety. (Learn more about the signs of anxiety.) Although it’s uncomfortable, those negative feelings will pass. Fighting the anxiety can just make it stronger; paradoxically, accepting that you are feeling anxious helps activate the body’s natural relaxation response. There’s a reason so many people embrace mindfulness practices like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. They help clear our minds and keep us in the moment so we can regroup and recharge in a quieter, calmer place. You might find that meditating or doing some yoga first thing in the morning helps you start your day with energy and focus, allowing you to tackle the day from a less stress-fueled vantage point.
Studiesalso show grateful people enjoy better mental health, lower stress, and a better quality of life. Meditation brings short-term stress relief as well as lasting stress management benefits. There are many different forms of meditation to try–each one is unique and brings its own appeal. Although stress and anxiety may arise in your workplace and personal life, there are many simple ways to reduce the pressure you feel.
Under the Affordable Care Act, almost all health insurance plans must cover mental health services as an essential benefit. Compare plans on HealthSherpa to see which ones have the best mental health coverage. The medical and behavioral health communities have been working diligently to find a way to reach to people in this time of need. Many facilities have moved to virtual visits to allow people to stay home and practice social distancing but also get the help they may need.
There are countless free apps with a simple Google search that can guide you. Another tip — watch less news and plan time daily to stay off social media. The simple act of stepping away from the chaos of the world, even for a short time, can do wonders for our psyche. The things that cause us stress often involve us taking actions to deal with that stressor. Add to that the fact that it’s hard to make good decisions when we’re feeling overloaded with stress in the moment and the result can feel overwhelming. In today’s society, stress and change often are thought of as the same thing.
Nothing affects your stress levels like the voice inside your head. There are more benefits to positive self-talk than reducing stress. These include a longer life, lower levels of depression, greater resistance to the common cold and cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills for when hard times hit.
Slow-paced instrumental music can induce the relaxation response by helping lower blood pressure and heart rate as well as stress hormones. Positive physical contact can help release oxytocin and lower cortisol. This can help lower blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are physical symptoms of stress. Many people enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning; that’s totally fine.
You can’t change all the stressors in the world, however, so sometimes the best way to cope with stress is by accepting the situation as it is. Instead of trying to control what you can’t and adding more stress to your life, focus on controlling how you react and feel instead. A fully packed schedule would make a lot of people feel stressed.
Getting physical activity every day is one of the easiest and best ways to cope with stress. When you exercise, your dialectical behavior therapy brain releases chemicals that make you feel good. It can also help you release built-up energy or frustration.
In fact, face-to-face interaction triggers a cascade of hormones that counteracts the body’s defensive “fight-or-flight” response. So make it a point to connect regularly—and in person—with family and friends. Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life.