Everyone deals with stress at some point in their lives, and to an extent, it can be healthy and constructive. But at what point does it become destructive? What do you do when stress really – and I mean really – gets to you? Too much stress, or improper stress management can be toxic to your body. Not only can it decrease your mental stability, but also your overall physical health over time. It is important to know how to deal with stress in healthy, effective ways.
The first thing you should ask yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress is, “What exactly is the problem?” What’s causing you to feel stressed? If you can identify the problem, the next question to ask is, “How do I fix the problem?” The best way to do this is by taking some time, by yourself, and collect your thoughts. Take a walk, take a bath, do something that gets you by yourself. Turn off the TV or computer and try to focus. Get some paper and a pencil and write down the problem or problems, write down all your thoughts and worries. This puts everything right there in front of you, and makes it easy for you to focus on the problem, rather than having different little things nagging at you in the back of your mind. Think of ways you can solve the problem. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come to you right away, just put it aside and come back later. If you don’t know why you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress and can’t figure out a solution, it may be time to seek help. Whether it be a trusted friend you can confide in, a psychiatrist, an online help community, a financial or family counselor, someone that can work with you to find the root cause of your stress.
Many people’s initial reaction when they’re stressed out is to reach for something to take the edge off. They grab cigarettes, a beer, or reach for something more dangerous. Sure, that cigarrette may help you feel better for a little while, but did it help you solve the problem? Alcohol and drugs, even caffeine, can make you react even worse to stress. The effects of major stress is bad enough on your body, cigarettes and alcohol only add to that, and can just make your stress worse. It can make you more susceptible to addiction, and eventually there can come a point when it no longer just effects you, but your family and your friends as well. Don’t let stress take this kind of hold in your life!
Instead of turning to unhealthy substances to help you cope with stress, try some healthy alternatives. A healthier mind and body is more resilient and can handle stress more easily. In addition to avoiding smoking or drinking, avoiding caffeine is also wise, as it has similar effects on your body’s reaction to stress. Having a healthier diet can help you feel better physically and mentally. Anti-oxidants are also a great help, because they fight chemicals called “free radicals” that are released when you are stressed, and deteriorate your health. Smoking and drinking also releases free-radicals. Anti-oxidants are found in many kinds of fruits, but pomegranate is packed with them. Teas, especially green and white teas have lots of anti-oxidants. Black tea has them too, but not as much, and it also contains caffeine. Even dark chocolate has anti-oxidants, but watch how much you eat. Food can become another kind of addiction when you’re feeling vulnerable.
In addition to diet adjustments, physical activity can help fight stress a great deal. Exercise releases endorphins, chemicals that give a feeling of well-being. Try to go for a jog, a bike ride, swim, or even just a brisk walk. If nothing else, it can give you a little quiet “me” time in the outdoors that can help you sort out your feelings and thoughts, contemplate a game plan, or just think about nothing for awhile. Yoga is another great stress-fighter, since it combines physical exercise and meditation.
St. John’s Wort and 5-HTP are natural supplements that can help you fight stress and anxiety. Valerian root is also known to combat stress. These are healthy alternatives to cigarettes and alcohol. But be warned, not everything effects everyone the same way. Consult your doctor before starting a self-medication regimen. Also note that certain vitamin deficiencies can cause anxiety and depression. Make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet or are on a multivitamin supplement.
And finally, remember that everyone needs to de-stress regularly. This means finding some peaceful quiet alone time in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Mindful meditation is one of several different relaxation techniques that you can use. Some other ideas involve imagining the problem and its solution. If it’s something upsetting you that you can’t do much about, close your eyes and imagine a stream. Imagine whatever that’s bothering you floating down the stream, floating away. If the problem is something you need to do something about, imagine the solution, and imagine yourself taking care of the issue. Don’t let stress build up in your life.