STRESS: The Warning Signs and 10 Ways to Reduce it
Stress is your body’s natural reaction to any kind of demand that disrupts life as usual. In small doses, stress is good — such as when it helps your conquer a fear or gives extra endurance and motivation to get something done. But there’s also bad stress, which is often caused by worries such as our money, jobs, relationships or health, whether it be sudden and short or long-lasting.
Feeling stress for too long, whether for several hours, days or months sets off your body’s warning system of physical and emotional alarms. Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent insomnia or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the culprit.
Common Warning Signs of Stress
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10 Sure-Fire Ways To Reduce Stress
- Exercise. Exercise won't make your stress disappear, but it will reduce the adrenaline in your veins, diminish some of the emotional intensity that you're feeling, clear your thoughts so you can deal with your problems more calmly.
- Take control. The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it's a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.
- Connect with people. A good support network of colleagues, friends, and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way. The activities we do with friends help us relax. We often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.
- Challenge yourself. Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.
- Avoid unhealthy habits. Don't rely on alcohol, drugs, smoking, candy, chips and caffeine as your ways of coping. Over the long term, these crutches won't solve your problems. They'll just create new ones.
- Focus on the positive. Try writing down three things that went well, or for which you're grateful, at the end of every day.
- Learn to say no. Try not to take on more than you can handle. Saying no is one way to control your stressors.
- Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness describes practices that anchor you to the present moment. Try TaiChi, yoga, prayer or meditation.
- Cuddle. A positive touch from cuddling, hugging, kissing or sex may help lower stress by releasing oxytocin and lowering blood pressure. Petting an animal will help, too.
- Listen to music. Listening to music can have a very relaxing effect on the body. Slow-paced instrumental music can induce the relaxation response by helping lower blood pressure and heart rate as well as stress hormones. Nature sounds can also be very calming. This is why they're often incorporated into relaxation and meditation music.
Everyone reacts to stress differently, and each body sends out its different set of red flags. Some people may not even feel the physical or emotional warning signs until days, weeks or months of stressful activities. But when you do notice health changes or that you are snapping at your friends, pay attention to the signs and listen to what your body is telling you.
By noticing how you respond to stress, you can manage it better and in healthy ways, which will help your body correct itself, reducing the high cost and care of chronic, long-term health problems.