STRESS 101: What it is, How it effects your body, and How to manage it!
Stress is the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it which requires the body to adapt, and is an automatic and immediate response. Frightening stressful experiences can result in PTSD or anxiety conditions.
- Stress can be positive and motivating (called Eustress) or it can be negative and an obstacle (Distress).
- Stress can be short term or it can be chronic, which can then exceed our physical adaptive capacity and lead to health and emotional problems.
The Stress Response occurs in stages:
- Alarm (awareness of possible stressor and identification of threat)
- Resistance (adaptation occurs and either the stressor is resolved and the body returns to homeostasis OR stress continues and resources are depleted creating Exhaustion)
- Exhaustion (demands of stress exceed individual’s ability to adapt and functioning declines resulting in mental or physical symptoms).
This response has many biological and chemical components which will not be described in detail here, however it is important to know the basics! Biologically our bodies react to stress by producing hormones (adrenaline, cortisol etc.) that trigger our survival response and tell our bodies to “fight or flee”. Our bodies begin to take action to protect themselves through a whole series of physical reactions (quickened heartbeat, faster breathing, tensed muscles etc.) that will allow us to either “fight or flee” for survival. Chronic stress can tire the body and can cause physical difficulties (like adrenal fatigue), making it important to understand and manage stress. For a full description of the biological and chemical aspects of stress please look here. (Biology of stress) (Adrenal Fatigue)
Stress Symptoms include:
- Physical (increased BP, HR, respirations, somatic symptoms, decreased immune response)
- Mental (decreased concentration, comprehension, and memory)
- Emotional (fear, anxiety, depression, fatigue)
- Behavioral (irritability, withdrawal, violence, substance use)
Stress can lead to many concerns of the mind, body, and spirit as well as interfere with daily life.
Stress Causes are internal or external “triggers”
- External stressors include: physical environment, social interactions, organizational limitations, major life events, and daily hassles
- Internal stressors include: lifestyle choices, negative self-talk or criticism, psychological defense mechanisms aka mind traps, or stressful personality traits
Take a look at your stressors, are they external to you and outside of your control, or are they internal?
How to manage stress:
Begin by doing the things that you know will help you feel better. Engage in self-care by doing things that you enjoy, make you feel good, and highlight your talents and uniqueness. This will decrease stress and increase self-esteem! Build your positive personal resources!
Create safety and security by making sure you have your basic self-care needs met such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, decorating your space, staying hydrated, getting physical activity, attending to hygiene, managing your medical health, and having social support. Knowing that we can care for ourselves can help us trust in ourselves to manage whatever obstacles we face.
Have fun and take time for your hobbies. Learn something new, or build upon skills that you already have. Spend time with people who make you feel good about you and who will support you through hard times.
Relax! Pay attention to your needs and wants (body, mind, and heart), reward yourself for your efforts, meditate and use relaxation exercises, and make a point of treating yourself well EVERY DAY!
Find ways to express your emotions, use Mindfulness to be aware of your negative thoughts and their influence upon your emotions, and work to challenge and change thoughts to positive. Positivity exercises include writing in a gratitude journal, creating an ongoing positive affirmation list to recite, repeating a positive mantra (I am tough, I can handle anything), or engaging in self-compassion exercises (see self-compassion.org).
Change lifestyle habits: less caffeine, sugar, alcohol. Eat a well-balanced diet with lots of veggies and fruit. Eat less junk food. Eat slowly. Make meal time a special time. Exercise frequently and regularly. Get enough sleep. Relax and take time for leisure.
Change situations: manage time and finances, be assertive and set boundaries, work to problem solve, know when to leave a situation that is not worth the stress.
Change your thinking: Be positive, create opportunities out of problems, challenge negative and self-critical thoughts, have a sense of humor, increase self-compassion.
Anxiety and PTSD www.NIMH.com
Self-Esteem Workbook http://www.samhsa.org