Identifying And Tackling Chronic Stress

Identifying And Tackling Chronic Stress

Stress is a normal part of life. Some stress is actually healthy because it protects us in high-stress situations to help us cope and react quickly. This is called acute stress. However, when our stress levels stay elevated longer than what is necessary, it can become a serious health problem. Chronic stress (prolonged heightened stress levels) affects our bodies, minds, and overall health. These symptoms can look different for everyone, but typically our bodies tell us what is happening within, so pay attention to what your body is saying.

Acute Stress (short-term stress)

Examples: Someone cutting you off in traffic, feeling nervous before a big meeting or presentation at work, getting the kids on the school bus in time…

Symptoms of Acute Stress (temporary symptoms)

  • Being More Self-Critical
  • Decreased Motivation
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Feeling Overwhelmed
  • Feeling Sick or Dizzy
  • Fidgeting
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Panic Attacks
  • Sweating

Chronic Stress (long-term stress)

Examples: negative relationships (platonic, romantic, family, colleagues, etc), toxic home or work environment, ongoing health concerns, financial worry, divorce, death of a loved one…

Symptoms of Chronic Stress (long-term symptoms, the body is unable to relax on a regular basis and remains in distress, may experience acute stress symptoms in addition to chronic symptoms) 

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Chest Pains/Muscle Aches
  • Depression
  • Emotional Withdrawal
  • Existing Mental Health Issues Worsen
  • Fatigue/Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness/Brain Fog
  • Impulsive/Irrational Thoughts
  • Increased Alcohol or Drug Use
  • Irritability
  • Migraines/Headaches
  • Stomach Pain

How Can We Tackle Chronic Stress?

1. Ask for Help

You don’t have to do it all on your own. In fact, we weren’t designed to do it all on our own. We need a support system. Give yourself grace, and release yourself from the pressure of needing to do everything by yourself.

Be clear about what you need. Don’t assume that those close to you know what you need. Example: Ask your partner to occupy the kids for a while so you can go for a walk.

Get a different perspective. Asking others for help can allow you to see different perspectives and possible solutions in a stress-inducing situation.

Seek help from a professional. Therapy can help tremendously when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed. A trained therapist provides the non-judgmental, third-party perspective you may need when dealing with difficult situations or emotions.

2. Breathe

Practice deep breathing exercises when a stressful situation occurs, or better yet, make it a daily routine. Deep breathing can help calm us, reduce our heart rate, and help us manage stress.

3. Try Prayer, Meditation, and/or Yoga

Don’t know where to start?

Prayer: The “YouVersion Bible” mobile app has daily guided prayers and studies.

Meditation: The “Insight Timer” mobile app has a library of over 130k free guided meditations.

Yoga: There are endless yoga instructors you can follow on YouTube, or you can join a local Yoga class.

4. Recognize your Triggers, Changes in Heart Rate, Emotions, and Reactions

Be self-aware of what you’re feeling/thinking and question why you’re feeling/thinking that way. When you feel irritated, ask yourself, “Why am I irritated right now?” Or, when you have certain expectations that are not being met, ask yourself why you have those expectations or where they come from in the first place. If your expectations involve another person, examine if you’ve verbally communicated your expectations with them.

5. Move Your Body Daily

Physical activity improves physical and cardiovascular health and is vital to maintaining mental health and reducing stress. Exercise produces endorphins, a chemical in the brain that helps relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

6. Journal

Getting your worries and thoughts down on paper can help you let go of all the things that are stressing you out. Don’t keep it all bottled up.

7. Look at the Silver Linings

Try to spot the positives (silver linings) in difficult situations. Ask yourself “What am I grateful for today despite this difficult circumstance?”

8. Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

We’ve all heard the phrase “You are what you eat.” As much as we may not love hearing this, it’s true. Having a well-balanced diet that is full of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, grains, vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats will make your body thank you. And remember to drink plenty of water!

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Crosswinds Counseling if you have been dealing with a lot of stress and need help and support overcoming it. It’s okay to ask for help. You are worthy of healing. Crosswinds’ team of therapists has helped thousands of people overcome difficulty. We can help you too.

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