Many of us feel stressed during our daily lives due to work, family and social life problems and responsibilities. Stress is the physical response of your body when it feels it is in danger, in order to protect you. Your body transfers from flight mode to fight mode, and hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released to prepare you for action. Heart rate, breathing, and energy increase while other unnecessary functions, such as digestion, stop. This fight response is our body’s survival mechanism in dangerous situations. However, the stress in the modern world is much more different compared to the times of our ancestors. April is Stress Awareness Month, and, especially during this time, we should become conscious of this topic. It seems hard to cope with stress, but there are some methods you can try and apply the ones that work best for you. Moreover, in this stress awareness month, you can go one step further and help others that also require help.
Causes of Stress
Today, there is work or family-related stress that can show itself with physical symptoms. Stress factors may vary depending on your age. For adults, the main cause of stress is work-related, while for younger individuals, it is generally school-related. Work-related factors include excessive workload, unclear expectations and job description, lack of job security, having dangerous work conditions, and an unhealthy work environment. There are also life-related factors that may cause stress, such as death, illness, divorce, traumatic events, the pressure of obligations or taking care of the family. Alongside the external factors, stress can be caused due to internal reasons, like fear, perceptions, being hard on yourself and change. In order to enhance stress awareness, you may first start with yourself. For instance, determine the causes of your stress by observing yourself in stressful situations, and you may recognize some of these symptoms:
Physical symptoms of stress:
- Digestive trouble
- Muscle aches
- Increased heartbeat and chest pain
- Losing motivation
- Irregular sleeping schedule
- Loss of appetite
Cognitive and emotional symptoms of stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Unwillingness to socialize
- Dealing with constant negative thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being disorganized
- Problems with memory
- Loss of self-esteem and avoiding responsibility
What does stress trigger in our bodies?
Stress doesn’t just cause short term or external malfunctions in your body. According to multiple studies, stress can lead to diseases that can be lethal:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Depression due to high cortisol levels.
Additionally, stress may cause some diseases indirectly by inducing an imbalance in hormonal levels. It may contribute to infertility or weaken the immune system, which makes the person more prone to infectious disease and even cancer.
Coping with Stress
People all around the world who live different lives may face similar problems that may cause stress. The key is to know how to handle stressful situations so that it has a minimal effect on your health. Because of the importance of stress awareness, we present some suggestions you can try to cope with stress:
- Take care of yourself
- Sleep well
- Try breathing techniques
- Try finding the “silver lining”
- Drink water
- Talk to your family and friends
- Keep a stress journal
- Have quiet “me” time
- Have a healthy diet and meal schedule
- Don’t get stuck in social media
- Manage your time well
- Decide what is good and bad for you
- Let go of the things that you can’t control
Nevertheless, if you want to see instant results and get out of challenging situations, you can try these methods to reduce your stress level and make more important decisions:
Deep abdominal breathing: Your breathing becomes fast and short during stressful moments. You can reduce stress by taking deep breaths into your belly. This way, your body will relax.
Focus on calming things: Visualize something peaceful or verbally command yourself to calm down.
Muscle exercise: Tense and relax your 5 muscle groups: face, arms, chest, abdomen, and legs. Firstly, close your eyes, then tense your face muscles for 10 seconds and release for 20 seconds. Notice the relaxation during this 20 seconds and then continue with the next muscle group.
The instant effect of these exercises is to increase parasympathetic activities which occur when the body is at rest. In the long run, cortisol levels will drop, blood pressure will reduce, overall reducing anxiety and stress level.
How can you help others?
After you help yourself, you should also consider others during Stress Awareness Month. If you see the symptoms above in your family or friends, you should approach them with compassion and go through these steps:
- Politely tell them that you noticed their stress.
- Just listen.
- Offer alternative viewpoints if asked.
- Help them to find the underlying causes of their stress
- Try instant relaxation techniques together.
These are the things that you can do as a friend or family member, but there is a limit on what you can do. Sometimes, the best option is to get professional help. Some people may not be eager to do so, but remind them that their mental health and wellbeing is as important as physical health. While helping others, you may also draw attention to stress awareness in your social circle.