Stress is a natural response of our body to challenging situations. However, chronic stress can take a toll on our mental and physical health. Therefore, this April, which is the national stress awareness month in the USA, it is important to learn to manage stress before it becomes overwhelming.
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What is the definition of stress?
Stress is a physiological and psychological response of the body to a perceived threat or challenge. As mentioned, it is a natural response of the body to a situation that requires adaptation or coping.
Stress can be caused by various factors, including work, relationships, finances, health issues, and other life events. Sometimes, the definition of stress can be subjective. Chronic stress, which occurs when stress is consistent and not effectively managed, can lead to a range of health problems, including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.
Stages of stress
The stages of stress are a theoretical model that describes the different stages a person goes through when facing a stressful event or situation. It is important to note that all people experience stress differently. Not everyone will go through all these stages.
There are three stages of stress:
- Alarm stage: The body recognises the presence of a stressor and initiates the "fight or flight" response.
- Resistance stage: During this stage, the body attempts to adapt to the stressor and cope with it. The body releases stress hormones and physical stress response increases like headaches and sleep problems.
- Exhaustion stage: In this stage, the body's resources become depleted, and the person may experience physical and emotional exhaustion. Hence, the person may become more susceptible to illness.
Stress management techniques
There are many techniques out there that can help manage stress effectively. However, it is important to experiment and find what helps you. Here are some of the most effective stress management techniques from which you can choose.
Deep breathing: Deep breathing is a simple and effective technique that can help reduce stress and anxiety. It involves taking deep, slow breaths, holding them briefly, and exhaling slowly. There are several breathing exercises you can choose from.
Mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness meditation is a practice that involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. It has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.
Exercise: Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve overall health. Experts believe it helps to release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in the body to reduce physical tension and avoid physical stress response.
Time management: Proper time management can help reduce stress by allowing you to prioritise tasks and manage your workload effectively. It can help you realise your achievements for the day.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours that contribute to their disturbed mental health.
Sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for managing stress, several studies have shown. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
Healthy eating: Eating a balanced diet can help reduce stress levels. Avoid sugary and processed foods as they can increase anxiety, and focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Overall, the key to effective stress management is finding techniques that work best for you and incorporating them into your daily routine.