Stress is our body’s response to the challenges we face and it’s a universal part of the human experience that is inherently important – it helps us to react quickly to threats and dangers that come our way. Prolonged exposure to high levels of stress, however, can degrade our physical and emotional well-being. Stress symptoms come in many forms – physical, mental, and emotional – including elevated heart rate and blood pressure, jaw clenching, worry, irritability, insomnia, and fears. It’s important to know strategies that can help prevent and alleviate these symptoms so that you manage stress in a healthy way and we’ve rounded up a few suggestions below.
Trigger Awareness. Pay attention to what causes your stress level to rise. Major life events almost always cause stress – think divorce, loss of a job, job change, moving, having children, or the death of a loved one. Triggers can also be less obvious. For many people, watching the news, being too busy, or even drinking too much caffeine can cause stress.
Exercise. Physical activity decreases stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) while simultaneously increasing endorphin production. Endorphins are the chemicals in the brain that elevate your mood and make you feel relaxed after a hard workout.
Meditation. Practicing meditation has been shown to relieve anxiety. Meditation increases our capacity for mindfulness (the ability to be fully present in a given moment) and heightens our awareness of negative thoughts. A meditation practice equips us to cope with life’s stresses more effectively.
Sleep. Research consistently shows that adults who sleep longer each night are less stressed during the day. In fact, the relationship between sleep and stress is bidirectional – more sleep leads to less stress, and less stress leads to better sleep.
Play. According to social scientists, playful, spontaneous, energetic adults are generally less stressed and better at coping with hardship. Engaging in play – activities that are fun but aren’t by most standards considered “productive” – helps us feel more like ourselves and keep things in perspective. There are many different forms of play. To identify forms of play that are a good fit for you, think about what activities you find fun or even those you enjoyed doing as a child! A few examples to consider: playing sports with friends or in a league; arts and crafts; spending time in nature; riding bikes outdoors; or playing cards or a board game with your family.
If you feel overly stressed, don’t wait until your symptoms become overwhelming to ask for help. Contact your primary care provider or a MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL today.
If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, tell someone who can help right away or dial 911 in an emergency. You also can call the NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE (LIFELINE) at 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255), or text the CRISIS TEXT LINE (text HELLO to 741741). Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all calls are confidential.
Visit the Bene RESOURCES page for a list of mental health organizations.