Stress and worry are a natural part of life. Your body’s response to stress can keep you safe in dangerous situations or act as motivation when you’re under pressure. However, left unchecked, stress can hurt your mental and physical health, from the amount of sleep you get to eating habits and your social interactions. Consistent stress management and healthy coping skills can help you feel and address stress without it overwhelming you.
What happens to the body when you feel stressed?
Stress is a biological reaction to a perceived physical or psychological threat. If you ran into a wild animal, your body would feel acute stress, releasing adrenaline and cortisol to put your body on high alert so you could escape. However, chronic stress can cause these kinds of reactions even when you’re not in immediate danger.
- Fight or flight: Cortisol triggers the body’s fight or flight response. While this isn’t cortisol’s only role in the body, you have cortisol receptors in almost every major system and organ in the body. A mix of cortisol and adrenaline increases your heart rate and blood pressure, reduces your ability to feel pain, and your senses become hyper-aware. This response also causes the release of sugar from your liver for a quick boost of energy to get you out of a dangerous situation.
- Disrupted sleep: An increased heart rate along with the racing thoughts that come with stress make it tough to get a good night’s rest. Poor sleep can further increase stress because it affects your ability to regulate your emotions.
- Difficulty concentrating: The chronic presence of cortisol interferes with concentration and focus because it affects your prefrontal cortex. You use this part of your brain to use logic when making decisions.
- Irritability: The combination of poor sleep, lack of concentration, and being on edge also makes you more irritable.
- Muscle Tension: Knots in the back, neck, and shoulder muscles are very common when you’re worried or stressed. These tight muscles can also contribute to stress headaches.
5 Tips for how to manage stress
1. Be active
Exercise causes feel-good hormones called endorphins to sweep through your body. They’re responsible for the “runner’s high” that many athletes crave. Prep your body before hitting the pavement, court, or slopes with Liquid-to-Powder Plus to prevent painful chafing.
However, exercise isn’t the only way to be active. Taking a relaxed walk, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking to the store instead of driving are all ways to add endorphin-releasing activity to your life.
2. Prioritize your commitments
Put yourself and your family first. There are many good and valuable ways to spend your time. Unfortunately, you can’t be everywhere or everything to everyone all at once.
If stress and worry are overtaking your life, take a look at your commitments to determine if they’re really necessary. It’s okay to say no to requests that will overtax your time, abilities, or energy, even if it’s for a good cause.
3. Make time for self-care
Self-care comes in many forms. It could be making sure you get enough sleep or eating healthier. It could be making time for exercise or talking to a friend on the phone once a week.
Self-care can also include pampering yourself a little bit. Pampering could be a monthly massage or your daily skincare routine. Small daily pampering sessions that take less than five minutes can make a big difference. For example, take a few minutes after your morning or evening shower to apply a Day Moisturizer or Night Moisturizer.
4. Rethink your schedule
Sometimes a strict schedule is helpful for accomplishing daily tasks, and sometimes it can get you stuck in a rut. A change in your daily or weekly schedule can bump you out of a stress pattern. Change your running routine, try a new sport, take a painting class, or read a new genre of fiction to shake yourself out of what could be a stifling schedule.
Also, take a close look at activities or habits that add stress to your life. Could waking up a few minutes early so you’re not rushing out the door for work change things for you? Is exercising the first thing in the morning making you too tired throughout the day? Would working out at the gym after work give you some stress relief before you get home? Look for ways to make adjustments that simplify your life and enhance your health.
5. Maintain social contacts
Friends and family can be excellent sources of stress relief. You might be surprised by how effective it is to simply talk through your worries. Sometimes they don’t seem so bad once you’ve put them into words. Additionally, a good laugh with friends can release more feel-good endorphins to cut through your worry.
Stress and worry are a part of life, but they don't have to impact your quality of life. By recognizing the stressors that have a negative effect on your well-being, you can start to employ healthy coping skills to manage them. Take care of yourself and make time for simple self-care every day.