Stress - A Building Block of Wellness
We all know the feeling some way or another. Heart pumping, shoulders crunching, chest tightening. It’s stress. Everyone experiences stress, particularly when we feel that things are out of our control.
We all have it, but why we feel it, how we feel it, and how we cope with it can vary.
The good news is, you don’t have to live with the ebb and flow of stress. You can create an action plan to become more stress-resilient. We’ll talk about how to measure your own stress, then I’ll share some of the best coping techniques that you can start putting into practice - as early as today.
Why Stress Reduction Matters for Wellness
Stress doesn’t just impact the mind. Like sleep, it can wreak havoc on productivity, relationships, and is even associated with a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. It’s important to learn how to recognize and manage stress to keep a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
Noticing Symptoms of Stress
One person might get angry and flush when they’re stressed, while another may get quiet and might even feel depressed. Symptoms of stress aren’t always predictable, and they certainly aren’t the same across people.
So how do we figure out when we’re stressed? You can check in with your mind, body, and behavior to assess your own stress levels.
Mind may feel: Anxious, Overwhelmed, Irritable, Angry, Upset, Sad/depressed, Fearful, Obsessive thinking, Emotional outbursts, Poor concentration/memory, Emptiness
Body may experience: Fatigue, Headaches, Dizziness, Muscle tension, Sweating, Shallow breathing, Rapid heart rate, Teeth grinding
Behavioral symptoms may be: Withdrawing from others, Difficulty resting, Talking too much, Angry outbursts, Loss or increase of Appetite, Unfocused, Drinking and/or smoking
Sometimes quantifying and measuring something makes it more manageable! There are tools to measure and track stress levels. Anyone can use the Cohen Perceived Stress Scale (PDF). If you have a score of 20 or higher, it’s considered high stress, and can even put you at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Plus, if you track your stress levels, you can see how they get higher or lower over time.
Ways to Cope with Stress
In my sessions, I help my clients build a toolkit of Coping Skills, both short-term and long-term.
Short-Term Coping Skills are practices you can pull from to deal with stress right in the heat of the moment and clear your mind, like humor, deep breathing, or positive self talk. Anything that releases endorphins and helps perceive the situation differently, or relieves muscle tension can help! Deep Breathing brings more oxygen in your body, slowing your heart rate. This simple practice can lower blood pressure and clear your mind.
We also build a set of Long-Term Coping Skills to increase resilience to stress and help prevent health concerns related to distress. These are behaviors you can practice daily, like Meditation, Progressive muscle relaxation, and Visualization/Guided imagery. These help you gain a new perspective on stressful situations, reduce negative emotions, relax mentally and physically, and help manage symptoms of health conditions.
Other actions you can take to reduce stress: Track your stressors, develop healthy responses, establish boundaries, take time to recharge, learn how to relax, talk to someone, and build a support system.
Always remember to be aware of your reactions to stress and keep practicing ways to manage it. You’ll feel so much better once you have your action plan and can start acting on it.
Learn more about stress management, explore my full Setting the Foundation for Wellness workshops and sessions, or set up a stress-relieving Thai Massage by contacting me here. Let’s set a foundation for a happier, healthier you!