Stress Management: Achieve The Impossible!
We tend to think of stress as being something bad. However, it is in fact, a normal and even vital part of our human make-up. Stress can motivate us to make changes, to advance and to develop. It has been vital in the evolution of mankind and has made us what we are today.
What is Stress?
Stress is a survival mechanism. When we experience a stressful situation our bodies release stress hormones and chemicals in our brains which get us ready to take action. This is sometimes called the fight or flight response. However, if we fail to act, the stress build-up can cause both physical and psychological problems.
Good Stress vs Bad Stress
Good stress can be thought of as that which motivates and inspires us. It is the kind of stress that you feel before starting a new job or taking an exam. After we have completed the task, the stress naturally goes away.
Bad stress happens when we are unable to stop it and the effects build up. This can occur when an external situation is on-going and cannot be resolved. Also, when it is related to an internal situation such as a health or relationship problem. Long-term stress that continues over a long period without interruption is the most damaging. When chronic stress becomes unmanageable it can affect our day to day life.
Signs and Symptoms of Unhealthy Stress Levels
People who have unhealthy stress levels often suffer from headaches, muscle tension, an elevated heart rate, and pain. They frequently feel tired, fatigued and without motivation. Many people have sleep disturbances; either sleeping more or less than normal. Some people suffer from digestive problems and many change their eating habits. Unhealthy stress levels can make people irritable, have mood changes and it can lead to depression.
Often, people seek to escape from their stress by turning to alcohol, street drugs or the misuse of prescribed drugs. These things may make you feel better for a short while; but in the long run, they will worsen the problem.
Prescription Medication for Stress Management
If your stress is overwhelming, you should visit your doctor who may decide that a prescription medicine would help you. While these medicines will not solve the problem provoking your stress, they can help to reduce the symptoms caused by it.
These sedatives include Valium (diazepam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide) and Ativan (lorazepam), among others. They work by stimulating a chemical found naturally in the brain called GABA. This slows down mental activity and, therefore, calms the body. As they can cause addiction, these drugs are usually only prescribed for a short period.
These include Tenormin (atenolol) and Inderal (propranolol). While usually used for heart conditions and high blood pressure they can also reduce some of the symptoms associated with stress.
A group of antidepressants known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are most commonly prescribed for anxiety and stress. These include Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro. They increase the level of Serotonin in the brain which can decrease feelings of anxiety and improve mood.
Risks of Using Stress Medication
Like all prescribed medicines, stress medications can cause side effects in some people. The most common ones are a dry mouth, nausea and dizziness. If you experience side effects, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. Some stress medicines can also be mildly addictive, so always take care to only take the prescribed dose at the correct time. It is also important that you never stop taking your medication abruptly without consulting your doctor.
Stress Management Strategies
Many people have been able to reduce their stress levels by using these stress management strategies and stress management techniques.
Eating healthily, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep are all ways in which you can reduce your stress levels.
A varied diet including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables can help to ensure that you are getting all the vitamins and minerals needed to help your body deal with stress. Try to make mealtimes a calm, enjoyable time and avoid eating on the run.
Exercise improves both your physical and mental state. A morning jog or a late evening walk around the block can help you to unwind. Practicing team sports or signing up for a Pilates, dance, or yoga class, can really help reduce your stress levels.
Enough quality sleep is essential for stress management. Avoid using all electronic devices at least an hour before retiring for the evening. Do something you enjoy, to relax you before going to bed. Try reading a book or taking a hot bath. Go to bed at the same time every night and make sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible and has fresh air entering.
Meditation and spiritual practices can help with anxiety and stress and having family or peer support is also very important. Furthermore, having hobbies and getting out into the countryside can also be of help.
Deep Breathing Exercises
Most of the time we don’t pay much attention to our breathing. Becoming conscious of how we breathe can instill a feeling of deep relaxation and peace within us. Try lying on the floor and place your hands on your lower belly. Breathe naturally and become aware of the rise and fall of your belly. Gradually lengthen your breaths. As you breathe in feel yourself filling with light, positive energy. Hold this inside you for a few seconds and then (as you exhale) envision the stale, negative energy flowing out of you.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is one of the most effective relaxation techniques for stress reduction. Lie flat on your back on the floor and concentrate on your feet and lower legs. Tighten the muscles in them for a couple of seconds. Be aware of the tension you feel and then relax the muscles and enjoy the feeling. Do this throughout your body; working slowly up your legs, arms, and body until you reach your head. Clench the muscles and feel the tension and then experience the lovely feeling of relaxation as you release.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction involves putting your entire attention and energy into what is happening within and around you at the present time. It can help to reduce stress by not allowing you to dwell on the past or worry about the future. Concentrating on the present can help you to find real solutions to stressful situations.
Herbal Supplements for Anxiety and Stress
Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis) is one of the most common herbs used to combat stress. Try a cup of chamomile tea before going to bed to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. Other herbs that can help to reduce anxiety include Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), Hops (Humulus Lupulus) and Oats. Nutritional supplements like Valerian, 5-HTP, Passion Flower and Kava can also help. A drop of lavender essential oil can calm you in moments of severe anxiety.
Stress Management That Works!
As everybody reacts differently to stress, you may need to try different techniques to find which one can help you best. Making some simple lifestyle changes for coping with stress can sometimes be really effective. If you do not find that this helps or if you continue to feel unable to cope, you should see your health practitioner as medication could be the best way to relieve your symptoms. This also counts when you are experiencing other signs of stress that interfere with your life. Remember, however, that the medications only treat the symptoms and not the problem; so talk to your doctor about other kinds of therapies or counseling which may be available.
Don’t let anything get in your way of doing the things that you’ve set your heart on. Start working on managing your stress levels to achieve the impossible!