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Stress, a term we hear a lot in our day to day lives, as well as mays of managing stress. You might state feeling stressed or hear others describe how stress is impacting their lives. But what is stress when we really break it down and why should we care about it? Stress, as described by American Psychological Association (n.d.), is a normal reaction to everyday pressures. When not effectively managed, it can become chronic resulting in an array of other psychological and physical health issues i.e., PTSD, panic disorder, anxiety, heart disease, headaches, and so on. In fact, studies show that stress can prematurely age us on a cellular level. The good news is that strategic and proactive techniques can protect against this and even reverse signs of accelerated aging.
The Warning Signs
The warning signs of stress can manifest in physical, emotional, and behavioural ways. Considering this, some things to look out for are:
- Fatigue/sleep problems
- Loss of appetite or overeating “comfort foods”
- Increase in use of recreational substances.
- Nail biting or skin picking.
- Memory problems/forgetfulness
- Decrease in ability to concentrate/focus.
- Quick to temper.
- Acting out
- Social withdrawal
- Diminished sex drive
Techniques to help:
In times of stress, it’s important not to get too caught up in the cycle and forget to do the things that bring you joy. That could be something as simple as going for a walk, cooking, reading, listening to a podcast or your favourite song. Often, the simple things make all the difference because, compounded daily, and magnified, they create consistency and routine which serves to protect you and mitigate stress.
Other techniques include:
- Meditation – even 10 minutes. Every little bit helps.
- Practicing gratitude. Try writing a gratitude journal and add one thing daily.
- Give a loved one a hug. When we hug, we release oxytocin which reduces blood pressure and decreases the prevalence of stress hormones in our systems.
- Get creative. Play an instrument, paint, draw, play a game, write. Do something that speaks to your creative side.
- Stay connected. Speak to friends, loved ones, and members of your community. Connection is key to feeling supported and when we are supported, we are better able to manage stress.
- Try breathing exercises. There are so many to try i.e., alternative nostril breathing, box breathing, belly breathing, lion’s breath breathing, and more. Give one a try, see how it feels.
Embracing Health Stress While Prioritizing Self-Care
Remember – some stress is normal. Adaptive even. It can push us to do the thing we’ve been putting off, it can make us more resilient, and it can help us to meet our daily needs. However, we must be mindful of the warning signs and remember to take care of ourselves by maintaining a practice to protect against negative and unhelpful stress.
Interested in learning more? Check out these resources on how to manage stress:
- Determine your current stress level: https://www.bemindfulonline.com/test-your-stress
- More stress management tools – https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm
- If you are looking to connect further or receive support around managing stress, please get in touch with us at 250-718-9291 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Kea Fox, Practicum Student
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