Managing stress is a fundamental skill for surviving our fast-paced world. In fact, how we manage stress has a direct impact on our mental and physical health. Read on to learn how stress affects our body, how to prevent stress, and how to manage stress effectively.
While stress is a normal and natural response and a mechanism in the body that protects us, in today's fast-paced world, our stress levels are out of control. And too much stress causes health problems.
Understanding what stress is and how it's triggered is the first step to reducing unnecessary stress and taking back control of your life. We've all been in stressful situations and can identify what put us there, but sometimes we don't even realize we're suffering from stress.
Acute stress is the stress you feel suddenly in a stressful situation. It is short-lived and puts us into a state of fight or flight. Our body responds by raising our blood pressure and shifting blood to muscles and limbs to deliver the needed nutrients and oxygen for an emergency. Releasing stressor hormones like adrenaline stops all bodily maintenance procedures like immunity, tissue repair, reproductive hormones, and digestion while our energies are directed to overcoming the challenge.
Chronic stress is stress that doesn’t go away and consequently leads to health problems. Long-term stress is caused by consistent pressure in one or more areas of our life, like relationships, health, or work. Our bodies become so accustomed to living with too much stress that it becomes the norm. In this state, our bodies constantly prioritize the fight or flight response and release of stressor hormones over daily maintenance processes like digestion and immunity. Living in a constant state of fight or flight is detrimental to our physical and mental health.
Learning stress management skills can help us to overcome chronic stress and be best prepared for acute stress. The best way to approach stress management is to think about stress management techniques as falling into two categories.
PREVENTATIVE STRESS MANAGEMENT
Preventative stress management techniques help us to combat stress in our lives before it happens. We can reduce our stress levels by identifying what causes us stress and organizing our lives to reduce those triggers.
Many things in life trigger our stress response, but most stress triggers can be traced back to feelings of overwhelm due to a lack of resources. The most common lack of resources that cause overwhelm and stress are time and money.
Preventative stress management means taking stock or auditing your time and money resources and finding better ways to manage them.
MANAGING FINANCIAL STRESS
Lots of people have a bad relationship with money, they’re good at spending it but bad at managing it. Some people even think that if you haven’t got any money you haven’t got anything to manage. But this kind of belief leads to feelings of overwhelm and financial stress. No matter how little money you have. Its a resource and you need to manage it.
Most of us are overconsuming in at least one area of our lives. Whether that’s buying fast fashion or fast food or living in a house we can’t afford, overconsumption sucks away at our financial resources and leads to financial stress.
Knowing where we are overconsuming is the first step to reducing financial stress. There are tons of resources on the internet about how to manage your monthly household budget and where your money should be going. If you’ve never taken an audit of your spending this is the first place to start. Its probably the most powerful thing we can do to start managing our money and reduce financial stress. When we start to manage our money, we feel more in control and less stressed.
In our fast paced world, we seem to be addicted to being busy. Its what we’re comfortable with. We fill up our diaries and to-do lists until there is no empty space because we’ve become uncomfortable with emptiness.
But its a fine line between filling up space and being overwhelmed. Reflecting on how we spend our time can be really helpful. Like financial audits, time audits help us to pinpoint our priorities and clear out our time wasting activities like overconsuming media and mindless scrolling.
When we manage our time effectively, we feel in control and reduce stress. Plus we have more time to do what matters and what makes us feel good. Which means our bodies are releasing happy hormones instead of stress hormones.
DAILY PRACTICES THAT PREVENT AND REDUCE STRESS
Having a daily practice that is proven to reduce stress helps with chronic stress and means we’re more likely to respond to stressful situations in a healthy way. There are many different kinds of daily practices that will help reduce stress levels and prevent stress.
One of my favorites is goal setting. While to-do lists are endless, make you feel overwhelmed, and often cause stress, goal-setting journals have the opposite effect. So try changing out your to-do list with a goal-setting journal.
Goal-setting journals help you prioritize what’s important, keep you focused and help you achieve those goals. Managing your time with goal-setting journals helps you feel in control. And when we feel in control, we don’t feel stressed.
More traditional daily practices associated with stress reduction include:
☀ Breathing techniques such as box breath or deep breathing
☀ Progressive muscle relaxation techniques
☀ Cold water exposure
☀ Yoga / tai chi
☀ Healthy diet
RESPONSIVE STRESS MANAGEMENT
Stress is inevitable. But how we manage stressful situations influences our physical and mental health. Learning stress relief techniques such as reframing, breathwork, and relaxation can go a long way to combat acute stress.
The key to responsive stress management is learning to relieve stress before you find yourself in stressful situations. Practicing deep breathing and relaxation techniques in your daily life will give you the skills you need to respond to acute stress quickly. Plus, when you practice regularly your body becomes accustomed to being in a relaxed state, and you quickly notice when your body is out of sync. Adopting stress relief techniques becomes second nature in stressful situations.
MANAGE STRESS TO RELIEVE STRESS
Stress management is essential to surviving today's fast-paced life. To reduce your stress, take back control over your life by taking an audit of your resources. When we know what's draining us we can make better decisions and start to make changes that put us in control instead of feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
Written by Kirsti Formoso - Wellness Writer for Koraru
Kirsti Formoso is a wellness writer and researcher. She is passionate about holistic health and wellbeing. She has over 30 years of experiential knowledge in personal and spiritual development, and a Masters of Science in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology. She is also a peer reviewer for two scientific journals specialising in Transpersonal Psychology. When she’s not writing she can be found working on her vegetable plot, hiking in the mountains and breathing in all the wonders nature has to offer.