There is no avoiding stress – it is a part of daily life. Stress can come from all angles and depending on how we respond to it, stress can quickly become all-consuming and debilitating.
The impacts of an overload of bad stress on the immune system and our physical, mental, and emotional health cannot be overlooked. For so long, we’ve been trained to brush aside stress and to push through whatever rough patches we have. This is a dangerous approach to managing stress
We’re seeing the deadly impacts of stress on a daily basis. From poor health to chronic illness the impacts of stress are real. In this blog post, we’re going to break down stress by looking at good and bad stress, providing you with tips on how to handle stress, and the signs and symptoms of stress.
What is Good Stress?
Good stress is the stress we use to provide us with motivation. Whether it’s going out for a run, studying for an exam, or a task that leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction.
Good stress has some key differentiators:
- It doesn’t last long. Typically the sensations from good stress are over in minutes or hours.
- It encourages you to accomplish a big goal or motivates you to get something done.
- It gives you a feeling of hopeful excitement and confidence.
What is Bad Stress?
Bad stress is the debilitating stress that can leave you feeling overwhelmed, defeated, and exhausted. Bad stress or chronic stress can prevent you from doing the things you need to in order to benefit from good stress.
For example, bad stress can stop you from following through on your goals or getting outside for exercise.
Bad stress has some key differentiators:
- It lasts a long time and can become a chronic illness.
- It can stop you from doing the things you enjoy and prevent you from spending time with friends and family.
- It is exhausting, demoralizing, and depressing. Bad stress can leave you feeling stuck and unable to move forward.
- It has severe physical and mental health consequences.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Stress?
The signs and symptoms of stress can, at first glance appear to be benign, but it’s important to remember that everyone reacts to stress differently. It’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of stress so you can look out for yourself, your friends, your family, and your colleagues.
If you recognize any of the signs and symptoms of stress, do not ignore them or hope they’ll go away. It’s very important to reach out and ask for help – this can be from your doctor, a family member, a friend, contacting your local distress center, or calling your company’s employee assistance help line.
The signs and symptoms of stress can include:
- Constant feelings of worry or anxiety.
- Sensations of feeling overwhelmed and suffocated with pressure.
- A tough time concentrating.
- A short temper or regular feelings of irritability.
- Mood swings that can leave you feeling in one moment sad and then feeling excited and then angry.
- Abnormal eating habits, where you’re eating more or less than is normal for you.
- Struggling to relax and just hang out with friends and family.
- Ill health that can include sore muscles, aches, pains, stomach problems, frequent colds/flus, and a general feeling of not being well.
- Lethargy and exhaustion that can stop you from getting out of bed or doing activities that you enjoy.
- Irregular sleeping habits such as sleeping more, less, or erratically than is normal for you.
It’s very important that you understand that the signs and symptoms of stress are different for everyone. It can be very challenging when you’re experiencing chronic or bad stress for you to recognize what is happening. If you feel different or just not yourself, this is likely a signal that you are experiencing too much stress.
How to Reduce Stress
When you’re feeling stressed, it can be very hard to take steps to reduce your stress. However, it is critically important that you do so. The longer your body is in a stressed situation, the more dangerous it can be for your health and wellness.
Some or all of these steps can help you reduce your stress:
- Get some exercise. This can be a 15-minute walk, a dog walk, or floating in the water in a kayak or canoe – essentially anything you enjoy that puts a smile on your face. This exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous or exhausting. This exercise should be something you enjoy and that allows you to relax your brain and get a change of scenery.
- Focus on relaxation. When you’re dealing with bad stress, your muscles naturally tighten and become painful. Think of your shoulders and recognize if they’re hunched up around your neck. Many people end up with a sore and tight lower back as a result of stress. Try some at home stretching, go to a relaxing Yin yoga class, take a hot shower, enjoy a relaxing bath with Epsom salts, or stretch out, close your eyes and take a nap.
- Take natural supplements. Stress impacts every part of your body, this includes your immune system, gastrointestinal system, endocrine system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory system. Taking a natural supplement that supports immune system health can have trickle-down effects to the rest of your body, giving you the ability to heal and recover from stress-induced illness.
- Breathe. So often when we get stressed, we inadvertently hold our breathe or breathe erratically. Some deep full body breaths can do wonders to relax your mind and body. Sit or lie down, close your eyes, and take long slow breaths in and out.
- Eat the rainbow. We all have our favorite comfort foods that we turn to when we’re stressed. While these comfort foods are okay, it’s important to make sure you’re fueling your body with healthful fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy, beans, and fats. Do enjoy your favorites but remember to add a side salad with your macaroni and cheese or some celery sticks with your hamburger.
- Recognize the stressors. This can be very hard but if you can recognize what or who is causing you stress, you can take steps to make real change. This could mean disconnecting from social media, reducing your workload, asking for extra help with childcare, or taking a step back from negative relationships.
How to Get Help Managing Stress
If you or someone you know is dealing with overwhelming stress, we want you to get help in managing your stress. Talk to your family doctor. Call your local distress center. Talk to a close friend or family member. Do not try to tough it out, stress can be very dangerous.