Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
Do you feel stressed out daily? Does it feel like you’re always being faced with obstacles, and you just aren’t sure how to navigate it? Do you have too much to do and too little time? You’re not alone, and these aren’t the only reasons why someone deals with stress. Many different things contribute to stress, and it’s something that everyone will deal with at times. But if you’re dealing with stress regularly, it’s important to learn how to reduce stress in your daily life.
Understanding The Good And Bad Of Stress
While it’s true that your stress is the way that your body and mind naturally respond to obstacles, challenges, and demands, that doesn’t mean prolonged stress is good. There are healthy ways to handle stress and unhealthy ways, as well.
When you face a challenging situation, stress kicks in. This alerts your brain that there is a situation in which something needs to be done, and fast. Stress kicks the fight or flight response into gear. It forces your brain to decide if you will fight that obstacle or run away from it.
But there’s a problem with that. Not all obstacles need to be fought or run away from. In fact, many of our obstacles require us to use logic and reasoning to get through them. This is different from how our ancestors lived when many of their challenges required an immediate response to stay alive.
If you allow stress to control your decisions and life, it’s most likely not going to go how you would choose for it to go. A brain under stress isn’t likely to make the same decisions you would when carefully considering your options. That’s the way the body works.
Instead of allowing stress to make your decisions for you, it can help learn to recognize when stress is signaling that you need to pay attention to something. Then you can have a healthy way to handle that higher level of stress. So, how do you do that?
What Does Stress Look Like?
It’s important to learn how to recognize stress, or else you won’t be able to determine the impact it has on your life or how to overcome it.
Stress can cause many different symptoms for people. Some of these symptoms are physical, while others are emotional or behavioral. Some of the most common symptoms of stress include:
- Fatigue and/or sleep problems
- Digestive issues
- Muscle tension
- Chest pain
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Lack of concentration or motivation
- Irritable or angry
You may find that stress has a way of consuming your thoughts. If you find yourself under stress, it can be difficult to shift your attention to think about anything else. You can begin to dwell on the stress, and the more you think about it, the larger the problem seems to become. This is why it’s important to learn how to recognize stress and overcome it.
How Do You Know When You Have Too Much Stress In Your Life?
Now, before discussing ways of reducing stress, it’s important to note that you’re not going to just eliminate stress from your life completely. Remember, it’s natural to experience stress when faced with a difficult situation, challenge, or demand. However, when the stress you’re experiencing impacts the way you live your daily life, it’s time to seek help.
This is an indicator that your stress has reached unhealthy levels. Here are some other signs that you’re under too much stress:
- Your weight is changing due to eating too much or too little because of stress.
- You can’t fall asleep at night or wake up frequently and can’t fall asleep because your mind is running with worry.
- You’re experiencing chronic pain that can’t be attached to any other reason.
- You find that you’re getting sick more often.
- You don’t feel like yourself anymore. It might be that you feel more sad than normal or feel numb and like you can’t feel any emotions.
If you find that stress seems to be taking over your life, it can help learn healthy ways to manage your stress and stress relievers that can help.
Ways To Reduce Stress
There are multiple ways to address stress that you’re facing in life.
How To Reduce Stress When You Know The Stressor
The first step to reducing stress is to learn why you’re feeling stressed in the first place. It may be that you have a challenging job that’s making you feel overwhelmed or that you have a difficult relationship in your life that you’re unsure how to navigate. Many different things can cause stress.
When you identify the main source of your stress, you can begin to address it. For example, if you realize that a large part of stress is coming from the fact that your schedule is always overbooked, learning time management strategies can help. It can also be helpful to learn how to set priorities and say “no,” so you don’t overcommit yourself.
It’s important to remember that stress is not a one-and-done type of situation. You may identify an area that causes you stress and address it today, and next week, there may be a new area that needs to be addressed. Stress is part of life and always something that will be monitored and kept in check.
How To Relieve Stress When You Don’t Know The Stressor
There are times in life when you might not know exactly where the stress is coming from. It may be that you have multiple stressors in your life competing for your attention or that you have been living with stress so long that you aren’t sure what the source of it is.
If you’re unsure where your stress is coming from, you may benefit from talking with someone else. For example, speaking with a trusted family member or friend can help you gain an important outside perspective. They may notice things that you aren’t noticing in your life.
You may also benefit from working with a mental health professional like a therapist. They can help you process the different areas of your life and your feelings to determine where the stress is coming from. Once you reach that point, then you can begin to address those areas.
Now, there are also things that you can do to help relieve the symptoms of stress that you experience. There are healthy ways to relieve feelings of stress. Some of those include:
- Exercise – Doing physical activity (even just going for a walk) can go a long way in boosting your mood and relieving stress. Exercise boosts the chemicals in your brain that help you to feel happier. You may also find that physical activity helps you to feel like you’re releasing the built-up tension in your body that stress can cause.
- Journaling – Writing in a journal can help you to think clearly about situations. It can also provide you with a healthy and safe outlet to let out your emotions, frustrations, and worry.
- Meditation– Some people find that meditating, or even just sitting quietly, can help them to reconnect with themselves and move past the stress they may be experiencing. They learn to find calm instead of allowing their emotions to control them. Deep breathing is often used with meditation and can help reduce the symptoms of stress.
- Connect With Your Inner Circle – Spending time with family and friends can help you to relax from the pressure of stress and gain perspective. Sometimes, it can help people laugh with and distract you from your stress and anxiety.
- Getting Rest – If you’re struggling with stress, it may be keeping you up at night. Then being tired the next day may just add to your feelings of stress. Focusing on getting enough sleep each day can help you start feeling better and handle your stress in a better way.
How To Avoid Stress
When it comes to reducing stress, it might seem like the obvious solution would be to avoid it from the start. While stress is part of life, it doesn’t have to control you.
If you’ve been struggling with stress for a while, you may not even realize what a big problem it’s causing in your life. You may have grown so used to the symptoms of stress that you don’t realize how much better you could feel.
If you think that stress has become a problem in your life or wonder if it’s the cause of symptoms you’re experiencing, you can do this simple online stress quiz to see if you’re at risk. This can be the first step to healthily overcoming stress.