Written collaboratively by Hope Kleine and Kylie Serie.
According to a study done by the American Psychological Association, 44% of Americans reported an increase in stress levels over the past 5 years.1 Stress is our body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. While stress can be caused by good and bad experiences, stress built up over time can take a hard toll on your body. Today’s society promotes a busy and “on the go” lifestyle which often leads to feelings of stress caused by too much, “on the go” and not enough rest and relaxation. Stress can have many negative impacts on the body depending on the severity of the stress level. Physical symptoms can include fatigue, tension, pain, upset stomach, headaches, and may even result in increased cholesterol levels. Stress affects your mood and behavior by increasing anxiety, depression, sadness, and feelings of being overwhelmed. Other emotional symptoms include a reliance on substances, changes in appetite, trouble sleeping and lack of motivation.2 The more you are experiencing these negative effects of stress, the more important it becomes to find a way to manage your stress levels.
What can you do to manage your stress?
Managing stress first starts with the awareness that it is present. It is not too hard to notice when stress starts to appear. One of the first steps towards reducing your stress level is to notice what may be triggering you to feel stressed. You may not have the ability to control some of the sources, but there may be some that you have the power to change.
If you are noticing any of the symptoms that were listed above, you may want to ask yourself, “What is causing me to feel this way?” Once you identify the source that caused the stressed reaction, ask yourself, “Is this something that I have control over? Can I change this?” If you do have the power to change the source, make the change. If it is not something you are able to change, find coping mechanisms that are beneficial to your health. The coping mechanisms will help in the prevention of experiencing advanced stressed level symptoms.
It can be easy to find coping mechanisms that may not be healthy for your overall well-being. Finding ways to decrease your stress level in a healthy way is important for managing stress in the long-term. This can be done with mindfulness and a variety of tools.
Try incorporating any of the following exercises to reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing.
- Exercise. Exercising increases blood flow, improves mood, and decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression. Try moving throughout the day for an improved mood
- Make time for hobbies. Spending time doing the things you love will benefit your mental health by improving your mood and allowing you to relax.
- Socialize with friends and family. Spending time with the people you love naturally boosts your mood and diminishes stress.
- Incorporate relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation. These methods will work to reduce stress within the body by calming the mind. They will leave you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.
Managing stress can seem difficult at times but incorporating a little bit of mindfulness will help keep stress levels low.
- Clay, R. A. (2011). Stressed in America. PsycEXTRA Dataset,42(1), 60. doi:10.1037/e667212010-024
- How stress affects your body and behavior. (2016, April 28). Retrieved February 25, 2019.