There is no question about it… We all experience stress from time to time, but if stress creeps into your life too often or lasts over long periods of time, it can cause serious negative effects on both your physical and mental health. Over time, stress can affect many crucial parts of your body, including your immune system, heart, stomach, lungs, muscles, reproductive organs, and skin. Stress can also affect the way you think, act, and feel; causing concentration issues, fatigue, and moodiness. It can also lead to more serious issues such as depression and anxiety.
There are many things that can lead to stress and/or worsen your stress. Without the proper coping skills, it can be very difficult to deal with problems that may arise in your life. Common problems that cause stress include, relationship conflict, major life changes, stress in your family, a demanding job, conflict with co-workers, unemployment, financial issues, loneliness, health problems and emotional problems.
The best way to manage your stress is to learn and use healthy coping skills. It is important to incorporate stress-relieving techniques into your life to help relax both your mind and body. Some of the simpler techniques include journaling, doing something you enjoy, tapping into your creativity, talking to a family member or friend, starting an exercise routine, joining a yoga class, getting a massage, or occasionally indulging in your favorite sweet treat. Something that can be slightly more difficult, but extremely helpful, is partaking in techniques that help you relax your mind by focusing on the present. One such technique is meditation, a method of relaxation that requires you to focus your mind on one thing such as your breathing, so that your mind can be free of all distraction. Another technique is guided imagery, a method in which you listen to your therapist or a recording of someone describing a peaceful scenario in great detail to help your mind relax. These techniques are like mini vacations for your mind. Other techniques that focus on relaxing your body include deep abdominal breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Both relieve muscle tension and can help to slow your heart rate.
The above mentioned are some of the great ways to relieve stress in your life, but if you find your level of stress or the effects stress has taken on your life to be too much for you to handle on your own, then it may be time to seek outside help. A therapist can be a wonderful guide to help you navigate through some of the more difficult and complex stresses in your life. A therapist can personally teach you the coping skills you need, and be the supportive shoulder you need through your difficult journey.
M.Ed., NCC, LPC-I