What is stress?
Stress is something that doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can be affected by stress and stress can affect people in many different ways. Stress is our bodies way of reacting to the demands we find difficult to cope with. For e.g. One of the biggest stressors that we all have experienced would be exams. Leaving certificate/GCSE’S/College entry exams. Stress is something that can be both negative and positive. Stress can motivate us to push ourselves to limits and reach for our dreams and aspirations but then if we have too much stress in our lives, we can become overwhelmed and distressed while the stress tries to escape our body.
How does stress affect us?
- PHYSICALLY – Stress can manifest in our bodies bringing with it many challenging symptoms. It can impact our sleep hygiene perhaps we struggle to get to sleep because our mind is overactive and worrying about the stress. Or maybe in manifests in your energy levels causing tiredness even though you slept the full night through. I know when I am stressed one of my symptoms is acne. My face breaks out in spots along my chin or my cheeks even though I usually have clear radiant skin. It can cause us to lose our appetite or even the opposite no matter how much you eat you still feel hungry. The list goes on. As I said above stress does not discriminate and how it affects you could be the polar opposite to how it affects Larry.
- EMOTIONALLY – Stress can play havoc with our emotional well-being. Symptoms could arise like an unusual short temper at simple things that wouldn’t normally bother you. I know that sometimes when I’m stressed my tolerance for patience plummets. I would not be the most patient of people as it is but when I’m stressed my lack of patience becomes an issue. When waiting in the queue to purchase an item I can become irritated and instead of recognizing my stress I walk out of the shop and think “Ugh fu** this, I could not be arsed”. If I was able to recognize my stress in that moment I could take back control by telling myself that it’s okay to be stressed about X. Y, and Z but it doesn’t have to impact every other aspect of my life and to gain back control I need to allow myself to acknowledge it but then move on.
- BEHAVIORALLY– So the last paragraph directly brings us to behaviors. If I lost my patience and walked out of the shop when I got the urge that I am letting the stress control me. There are many things we sometimes want to do but we don’t because it is not accepted nor appropriate behavior to display in society. While I may want to storm out of the shop, I have to remember that it is not something I would normally do, it is not me and I do not behave like that. Stress can bring about changes in behavior directly or indirectly. Stress can be a horrible cycle.
- COGNITIVELY – How you think and what you think. Your thoughts could have taken a more negative stand without you even realizing. I know when I am stressed, I can snowball down a path of self-destruction just by letting my thoughts control me one after another before I even realize what’s happened.
So, what can you do to stop this cycle of events?
First and foremost, you need to be able to recognise what your stress signs and symptoms are. Is there a clear thing that defines your stress? Stomach cramps? Sweaty Palms? … When you can recognise your stress that’s when you can learn to take control. Identifying your stress signs and symptoms early on may prevent you going into what seems like a never-ending cycle.
We also need to learn to recognise our stress triggers. Maybe it’s large crowds. Maybe it’s conflict at home. Whatever it maybe that causes you unwanted thoughts and feelings. If for you your stress trigger is conflict at home, it can be hard to feel like you have the control to change it. While you are not able to change other people’s actions you can change how you react to them and that’s where learning your signs and symptoms will come in handy.
There are many different ways of managing stress levels and again what works for you might not work for another so it’s about trial and error and learning what does help you.
A known effective way of dealing with stress is meditation and before you roll your eyes to heaven know meditation isn’t always “listen to the sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks as you breathe in the salty fresh air”. No meditation can be so many things. For me I find when life is chaotic my meditation is sitting outside smoking a cigarette in peace and quiet with a cup of tea in my hands. I do not recommend taking up smoking but as a chronic smoker and someone who can’t sit still, I have learned to adapt my cigarette breaks into a sense of calm to keep me debrief and relax in the few minutes here and now before going back inside.
MINDFULLNESS is what is called “the practice of paying attention and focusing our awareness to the present moment”. When I was learning about mindfulness in my therapy programme, I was shocked to find out that there is 1440 minutes in every day. I had to learn to teach myself that my life would not fall apart if I spent 60 seconds everyday practising mindfulness. It was something I had to push myself to get into but now I couldn’t turn back and live without it.
Also, side note I was introduced to an app by my beautiful friend Jamie called headspace. Headspace is just amazing. It has meditations to bring you down when angry, help you drift off to sleep, become a kinder person. It is just phenomenal. Now it is a paid subscription every month of 15euro or something on them lines but I highly recommend if you feel your life could do with a bit of calm and you want to invest in something that will make your days a little brighter go check it out.
Guys if I was to list off all the ways we could manage stress I would be stuck in my office for the next month so I’m going to bullet point my favourite things for managing stress levels and I am going to include some really informative awesome links.
Favourite ways to manage stress
- A hobby I enjoy. Drawing, doodling, painting.
- My anxiety management coloring book for adults that Jamie gifted me when my life was a bit of a mess. Below are my top three picks of adult coloring books
- FIVE SENSES. Sight. touch. smell. taste. sound. Best way I find to bring myself back to the moment is by doing a self-care routine. My usual go too starts with boiling the kettle for a soothing cup of herbal tea. (taste) Lighting incense or candles (smell sight). Listening to some nice mediation music. (sound) (YouTube has so many) and then I will put on a nice face mask or have a soothing bath feeling the hot water and texture on my skin(touch). That seems to be my number one package for bringing me back to the present moment but know there is so many things you can do to lower your stress levels.
- Get out in the fresh air. Go for a run. Kick a football. Admire the beauty in nature. In the world.
- Distraction techniques.
It’s all about what works for you. It’s just a matter of learning what works and what doesn’t and then learning to use them as you need them.
Stress can be our motivator. Stress can be our dream killer.
What way are you going to let stress affect you?
Remember you can always take back control and learn new ways of coping. It just takes a bit of practise and a hell lot of repetition learning new techniques and skills.
Anyway, guys I hope this helps even a little bit. Don’t forget to check out the headspace app and I hope you all have a fabulous day.
lots of love Katie xx
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