The funny thing about stress is that everyone experiences it, but few know how to cope with it in a healthy way. Stress can be expected from certain events, even predicted, and sometimes it catches us off guard. Since we know we will likely experience it again at some point in the future, the best time to learn coping strategies for it is now.
Why Do We Stress?
Stress is a biological response to a threat against our physical or emotional well-being. Humans have stress to warn them of danger, and it triggers the fight/flight/freeze/faint response to help us deal with the threat. Increased heartrate, rapid breathing, and increased focus help our body find the energy it needs to respond to the imposing threat. Staying in this state for too long, however, can damage the body and you may start to notice physical symptoms arise from the prolonged stress.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
The physiological changes that occur due to stress can cause you to experience headaches, stomach pain, nervousness, increased susceptibility to illness, insomnia, and more. Some people are in-tune with their bodies and environment and know exactly when they are feeling stressed. Others may feel stress so much that they’ve just become used to it and don’t notice it anymore. Untreated stress can have lasting effects on the body and internal organs. If you are feeling stress more than usual or your symptoms are persistent, you may need help handling your stress. Therapists can assist you in identifying the source of the stress and how to deal with it in the best way.
Coping Tools for Stress
To manage your stress, first you will need to combat the physical responses your body produces in the moment of your stress. Since the body begins shallow breathing in response to stress, sometimes the best way to combat the feelings of stress is to consciously take deep breaths. Doing this for five minutes every day can cut down on stress symptoms and make us more efficient throughout the rest of the day.
Consider the cause of the stress. If the source is from a long to-do list, perhaps you can prioritize the list and accomplish the hardest tasks first or put off some of the least important tasks until later. Organizing your list into daily tasks and weekly tasks can also help you feel more in control over the situation and can lower your stress.
When you don’t have much power over your stress source, like if it’s your job that’s causing you stress, perhaps you can try rewarding yourself for getting through particularly difficult days. If you have a big project deadline, give yourself a 30-minute Nextflix break when you get home or treat yourself to a cookie. Note, “a” cookie, not nine cookies. Remember, your reward shouldn’t become an unhealthy coping tool. This way, your reward can help you get through the tough moments and you won’t have to feel guilty and stressed all over again from your reward later.