Stress is a scary concept.
Known as the “state of mental or emotional strain or tension from adverse or demanding circumstances”, this phenomenon is the body’s way of protecting you. Manifesting itself through mental, physical, emotional and behavioural outlets, you may find yourself experiencing some of the following symptoms:
- memory problems, lack of concentration
- poor judgement, negative outlook
- anxiety/racing thoughts
- body aches and pains, bowel disruption, low immune system
- nausea/dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat
- moodiness, irritability, short temper, feeling overwhelmed and the inability to relax
- loneliness and isolation/general unhappiness
- eating more or less/sleeping more or less
- using external stimuli to promote relaxation (alcohol, drugs or cigarettes)
- nervous habits (nail biting, fidgeting, shaking, pacing)
It is extremely important to be aware of triggers in your life which seem to activate these responses. Oftentimes you may be able to find a way to avoid setting off these triggers, however when you can’t, being aware allows you to have control over the next steps.
When you know stress may be on your horizon:
If you know an event in your future may cause you stress (a work event or meeting, university schedule, upcoming family engagements), there are a few things you can do to minimise your body’s reactions.
1. Acknowledge – be aware of the upcoming event, and instead of feeling anxious in anticipation, acknowledge the event as a potential stressful situation. Once you allow your mind to accept this, you can begin to ready yourself for it. Worry is often a useless emotion.
2. Prepare – prepare anything you can in advance. If it is work or uni related, create a calendar of milestones in the lead up (like having a draft of your assignment ready a couple weeks in advance). If it is a family commitment, plan for mishaps and “just-in-case” situations.
3. Let it go – once you have acknowledged the situation as a potential stress, and prepared, all you can do is let it go. We often worry about what could happen in the future, which wastes the seconds in the present. Tell yourself “I will no longer view this as a negative situation”, and push the negative thoughts away when they creep back into your mind!
When you are in a stressed state of being:
Stress causes the body to shut down. Your immune system can drastically drop, your mental being is often in a negative state and your emotions can become uncontrollable.
When you are feeling stressed it is important to identify methods of relaxation that your body will respond to. These methods differ for each individual. Often they are as simple as allowing yourself an hour a day to enjoy your favourite activity. It just might be a challenge to switch your mind off and actually be present in the activity, but after a few times of actively practicing, it will become second nature again – don’t give up!
Popular mental and physical methods to reach relaxation include meditation, yoga and massages. Meditation focuses on quietening the mind, yoga promotes organ and muscle activation, as well as the quietening of the mind, while massages activate your organs, promotes body and mind relaxation as well as heightens your circulation.
Daily ways to avoid stress can include:
- implementing a routine, which includes your method of relaxation (so you schedule some ‘me time’ in)
- organisation and planning ahead
- eating well – whole foods (ie. not processed) are a natural way to heal your body, and reduce the stress of digestion on your system
- making an active effort to be present in the moment, reducing worry about the future
- keeping a journal of your stress (i.e. why you’re stressed, your body’s reactions) so you can better combat it in the future
- speak nicely to yourself – don’t be so harsh. We are often our own worst enemies.
Stress, when not dealt with, can have serious effects on our mental wellbeing. If you feel as though you are unable to control your stress, it is important to seek help.
Be sure to be kind to your mind and body, and your mind and body will be kind to you!