Recognising stress and how to beat it in to relaxation
The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Some stress is good for us – it adds interest, excitement and motivation to life, in the right balance. But it is when the level of stress in your life causes you to put up with things that are harming or distressing you – consequently creating negative impacts of stress, such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
Therefore, it’s important to make a conscious effort to understand when you’re feeling stressed, identify why you’re stressed at certain moments and recognise stress the symptoms – in order to beat it.
So how do we recognise stress?
It may surprise you that one of the best ways to reduce stress and diffuse a stressful situation is to simply to accept it. Accept the environment you’re in. Accept whatever is happening. Accept your feelings about it all. Accept that you are really stressing!
A few examples of why you may be feeling stressed:
- All you do and think about is work, non-stop. It might be your own business, a career, a salaried position, a stay-at-home parent, or anything else that is soaking up your time and life one hundred percent, and this over-concentration is leaving you passionless, disappointed, unhappy, and unfulfilled.
- You’re often irritable, short-tempered, and perhaps unable to focus on completing tasks. Trivial things set you off easily.
- You feel as if you have too much going on and that you can’t hop off the merry-go-round.
- Your sleep is a battlefield and you wake up feeling less rested rather than refreshed. Insomnia has become your norm rather than an unusual event.
- You can’t remember the last time you had a good laugh and your sense of humour is sadly lacking.
Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviours, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Acceptance is much easier (and less stressful) when you understand the cause of what is happening. Below are the various symptoms of stress.
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and / or ability
- Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
- Constant worrying
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetfulness and disorganisation
- Inability to focus
- Poor judgment
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioural symptoms of stress include:
- Changes in appetite (either not eating or eating too much)
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
- Exhibiting more nervous behaviours, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
Acceptance is an attitude, not an action. It’s a state of mind that you cultivate by recognising the situation, identifying and acknowledging the emotions that are stressing you out, and just allowing it all to be. Tell yourself, “it is what it is, and I can’t change it right now.”
So once we’ve identified possible symptoms of why you’re stressed, it’s important to set aside time to relax.
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Getting started – how best to find time to relax
Once you have accepted that there are negative stressors impacting your life, it’s important to make room for relaxation amid all those busy things you’re doing.
Ways to prepare for adding relaxation back into your routine include:
- Let go of guilt. Many religious and cultural beliefs instill the value of hard work very deeply. Over time, and increasingly so with the advent of smart technology that keeps us hyper-wired 24/7, many of us have come to believe that being “on-the-go” constantly is the only way to prove our value. Hard work is giving your tasks the attention they deserve at the time they deserve, not letting it bleed into all hours of your day.
- Accept that sleep is a very important part of life. Sleep restores and refreshes your body in myriad ways that cannot happen when you’re awake. (Need tips for a better sleep? Read our blog 14 tips to develop good sleeping habits). Do not be tempted to devalue the worth of sleep. Dreaming is an essential part of sleep; you can explore your inner fantasy and have many experiences that you never encounter in the waking world.
- Block out times in your day to relax. Think of it as an appointment with your most important client – you – that you absolutely cannot skip or break.
- If you’re at home, mark time for relaxing in black ink on a calendar for everyone to see. That way, the whole family will appreciate the importance of making time to relax.
- Recognise that finding your own optimal ways to relax may take time, as well as some trial and error. Don’t give up — keep searching until you find the right combination of activities that relax you and rejuvenate your enthusiasm for living fully.
Stress is a part of life. What matters most is how you handle it. The best thing you can do to prevent stress overload and the health consequences that come with it is to know your stress symptoms.
If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed by stress, talk to your doctor. Many symptoms of stress can also be signs of other health problems. Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and rule out other conditions. If stress is to blame, your doctor can recommend a therapist or counsellor to help you better handle your stress.
– WebMD, The Effects of Stress on Your Body Read article
– wikiHow, How to Relax Your Mind. Updated 7 November 2019. Read article
– Psychology Today, Why Acceptance Is One of the Best Stress Reducers. By Erin Olivo Ph.D. 2 January 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/wise-mind-living/201501/why-acceptance-is-one-the-best-stress-reducers” target=”_blank”>Read article
– wikiHow, How to Relax. Co-authored by Lucy Yeh. Updated 9 October 2019. Read article
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