There’s a lot to do these days. Work, chores, family time, friends, self-care — the list is endless. It’s easy to feel stressed out, especially with social media bombarding you with picture-perfect lives every single day. Nobody has it together. Your stress is valid. However, stress can cause damage to your body if it’s ongoing and continuous. For example, if you’re stuck in a perpetual state of anxiety and tension, chances are you’ll get sick often. To avoid that, here are a few things you can easily do.
Understand Mental and Physical Stress
Stress is when you feel tense, either physically or mentally. The reasons can vary from person to person. Sometimes stress can come from big, sudden changes in life, having too many responsibilities, overwhelming pressure from peers, financial problems, relationship issues, or mental or physical illnesses. However, the biggest cause of stress, according to the APA, is work. Job-related uncertainties are the main perpetrators of chronic stress in the majority of adults in the U.S. Another cause is caring for someone with chronic illness. Physical symptoms of stress, no matter the reason, are similar and common in everyone. If you’re stressed out, you’ll likely experience the following physical symptoms:
- Muscle tension
- Digestive problems
- Low energy or fatigue
Psychological symptoms of stress include:
- Increased irritability
- Memory issues
Stress looks harmless to many, but it can lead to serious mental disorders like depression and PTSD. A little bit of stress is a normal response to problems. However, if it’s too intense or prolonged, it’s a cause for concern. The negative effects of stress on your body depend on how well you manage it. If you ignore it, you’ll be sick more often, even if you’re eating well. You’ll develop problems that weren’t there while wondering how they came about, even if you take good care of your body. Give your mind the same attention. Balance is key.
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It might take you some time to understand that your mental pain is real, but your brain reacts the same way to mental pain as it does to physical pain. That’s right — your brain does not discriminate between mental and physical stress, so why do you? No amount of emphasis is enough to explain the importance of good mental and physical health. Ignore either one and you’re in trouble. They’re two pillars of the same house. And that house is you.
Stressed Out? Try Mindfulness Exercises
The best way to reduce stress is by exercising. Physical activity makes your brain release happy chemicals. It serves as a beneficial distraction from everyday worries. For example, when you’re running, you’re focused on your body’s movement instead of the tasks pending and piling up. This allows you to shift your mindset from overwhelmed to relaxed, to focus on one thing at a time, and to break through the crowd of thoughts in your head. If you’re stressed out and can’t find a way to detach yourself from that loop-hole, set off on a run or do a short cardio workout. Regular exercise will prevent overwhelming stress from occurring in the first place.
You don’t have to immediately jump into intense workouts, however. You can begin with a light stretch or yoga flow or simply try a few mindfulness exercises. Whether you have mental stress or physical stress, mild exercises will help with both. Endorphins are chemicals that give relief from pain and are released by the brain during exercise. If you want more of them, you just have to stay active, not just physically, but mentally, too. Mindfulness exercises are not limited to breathing and grounding. Any hobby that you enjoy doing counts too, like journaling or gardening. Do more of what you love when you’re stressed. That’s one way to lift your mood and reduce both mental and physical stress.
Unfortunately, sometimes it can be difficult to enjoy hobbies due to the burdens on your shoulders. This is when you could try something new and change things up a bit. For example, meet a friend or pick a new mindfulness exercise, and do it regularly. Consistency matters. You can’t do it for two or three days and expect its effects to last for weeks. The more frequently you exercise, the more you’ll be saved from getting stressed out like crazy.
Here is a short four-minute YouTube video explaining how to practice mindfulness.
Good Habits to Work On
What you give your body should be proportionate to what you do with it. If your work requires lifting a lot of heavy items, you should build up muscle and eat a protein-rich diet. You might be getting stressed out because your body does not have the capacity to do more. When this happens, don’t berate yourself. Instead, pay special attention to your body whenever you have either mental stress or physical stress. Pain is your body’s way of signalling it needs more fuel. Negativity is not fuel, it’s poison. Mindfulness, a bit of positivity, self-care rituals, a good diet, and exercise are the things your body is asking for. Give them to yourself the way you would give medicine to someone sick.
Your body works really hard. There are hundreds of processes going on every hour inside you. A balanced diet serves as the main source of energy for these processes to be carried out. Lack of adequate nutrients and sleep will undoubtedly make you lethargic and stressed out because your system is not properly powered. To recharge you need to eat well, sleep enough, and stay as active as you can. Sometimes, the problem is easily solvable, but due to the stress inside you, it seems huge. In order to succeed in the world, you have to strengthen yourself first. Care for yourself enough to do what you need before you do what you want.
A simple way to narrow down the underlying sources of your mental or physical stress is to take a look at what you’ve been eating, how much exercise you’ve done in the past week, and how many times you practiced self-care versus how many times you criticized yourself. Conduct a short analysis of how much you worked versus how much you took care of yourself. You’ll often find the answer there. Attentive care today will prevent forced care tomorrow.
Stress is your body’s natural fight or flight response to problems. You’re probably very familiar with the causes of your stress — you think about them for hours on end, after all. It only becomes serious when it continues for weeks and you start seeing symptoms of depression and anxiety. The good news is, it’s treatable. Small changes in your lifestyle can make big changes in your future. Start small, with a few regular mindfulness exercises, and slowly pick up good habits along the way. You are your best cure.
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