Stress. It’s real, it’s everywhere, and it’s a growing problem. As far back as 2007, a third of Americans were living with extreme stress and the numbers have only gone up from there. The coronavirus pandemic has added fuel to the fire, sending stress levels through the roof.
If you’re amongst the legions of individuals struggling under the mental burden of stress, take heart! You’re not alone. Nor are you without options.
Let’s break down some of the biggest factors that contribute to stress, what its side effects are, and steps that you can take to address that stress.
Reasons for Stress
One of the most important factors to understand when navigating the pressures and strains of life is that stress is normal. However, if the stress in your life is chronic, it can be a problem. It can come from things like:
- Long work hours
- Financial strains
- Educational pressures
- Relationship concerns
- Parenting activities
These various sources of stress can begin to develop a bevy of undesired side effects, such as:
- A struggle to sleep, excessive fatigue, and even full-blown insomnia;
- Headaches, stomach aches, and muscle tension;
- Loss of appetite and weight gain or loss;
- Irritability, anxiety, and depression.
The list goes on and on. The point is, there are many ways that stress can impact you on both a mental and a physical level. When chronic or excessive stress creeps into the picture, it’s a serious issue that should be addressed as soon as possible.
How To Approach Stress Holistically
If you really want to address the stress, you must create a holistic stress management strategy. This should consider several crucial areas, which are outlined below.
Start With Self Care
Self-care is an essential part of combatting stress. However, this isn’t the misrepresented iteration of self-care that consists of splurging on back rubs and binging junk food while watching Netflix. It refers to giving yourself the actual things that you need. This starts with three basic areas:
- Food: From a healthy diet to regularly taking supplements, you need to fuel your body well consistently.
- Sleep: Both the quality and quantity of sleep (ideally at least seven hours a night for a full-grown adult) are a must in combatting stress.
- Exercise: Anything from walking the dog to running a marathon can release endorphins and reduce stress.
These aren’t frills. They’re life’s essentials. Do your best to make sure that you and your loved ones are meeting their basic self-care needs as you combat the stress in your home.
Get Creative With Your Stress Response
The Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius put it best when he said “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
In other words, no matter how bad your circumstances may be, you can still control how you react to the ongoing stress. This doesn’t have to stop with basic self-care. It can also manifest in a variety of creative anti-stress activities, such as:
- Scheduling in unplugging times to detox from things like social media and blue light.
- Getting a pet (that you can responsibly handle without difficulty) as a source of emotional support.
- Visiting a massage or physical therapist to help with things like tension headaches.
- In more extreme cases, considering something like cosmetic surgery to treat recurring migraines.
It’s okay to get creative with your stress relief measures. Find the activities that will work best for you and yours.
Consider Your Environment
Self-care and creative activities are great. But the environment that you destress in (not to mention the one that you operate in daily) is also critically important.
You can set up a stress-free atmosphere in many ways. Start by decluttering your spaces to avoid mess-induced stress. You may also want to consider creating screen-free zones for you and your loved ones to regularly relax in.
Once you have a good environment established, also do your best to avoid bringing home stress. The strains of work, school, and extracurricular life are easy to drag back home with you. Make an effort to resist this tendency.
There are many ways that you can structure anti-stress support into your life. For instance, you can make simple routines relaxing, like going for a walk each morning or reading a book before bed.
You can also create a network that can provide various levels of stress support. This can include:
- Social support such as relaxing activities that you can do with friends and families.
- A confidant that you can talk to when you’re overwhelmed.
- A professional counselor or therapist who can aid you in your fight to beat stress.
Consciously building stress support into your life is a helpful way to guard against breakdowns and overwhelm in the future.
Holistically Beating Stress
Stress is part of life. However, that doesn’t mean it has to control you. On the contrary, there are many ways that you can turn the tables and put stress in its place.
Self-care, creative activities, a stable environment, and a good support system are all key. If you can approach your stress relief holistically, you can set yourself up for a genuine, complete, and sustainable healing as you continue to navigate the stresses and strains of everyday life.