Financial problems, demanding boss, work under pressure – all this makes you live under stress. You never wonder how to reduce this constant tension, since you have no influence on the factors that cause it.
Check how to overcome stress and what techniques you can use for this purpose.
Living in constant stress has an impact on health. Continuously raised blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Immunity is weakened, so the susceptibility to any infections and bacterial or viral diseases increases.
Migraines, stomach ulcers, impaired memory, and lack concentration may appear. Muscle spasms and hand tremors are also considered to be a result of chronic stress. Increased levels of stress are also indirectly responsible for the increase in anxiety disorders and neuroses.
Remember, however, that not all types of stress are harmful. In small doses, stress can help you make important decisions and motivate you to do your best.
The concept of “stress” was introduced for the first time by Hans Hugo Selye, who dealt with this subject for 50 years. He hypothesized that the source of many diseases is that people cannot cope in various demanding situations.
Like every term referring to matters of the complicated human psyche, “stress” has many sources and causes.
Stress can be defined as a process in which environmental factors threaten the balance of the body, a certain relationship between man and external factors. Stress is also the body’s reaction to these factors, sometimes called stressors. Stress is also a stimulus, a situation that causes tension and triggers strong emotions.
Stress activates some mechanisms, a physiological as well as psychological reaction appears. It can have a significant impact on human health.
It describes stress as the activation of two systems – the pituitary gland releases a hormone in the brain that causes the secretion of the “stress hormone” – cortisol (it increases protein and fat burning, reduces inflammation).
The second system is the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and the secretion of adrenaline and noradrenaline – these hormones are in turn responsible for bringing the body into a state of increased activity: the heart beats faster, the blood pressure rises, the breath accelerates, the muscles are strained, the brain is aroused and alert. This stimulation prepares the body to fight or escape. Staying too long in this condition causes fatigue, exhaustion, and some physiological effects.
Because of the appearance of an external stimulus, a strong emotional tension appears which hinders proper functioning. You experience strong discomfort. This theory is closer to the common understanding of the concept of stress.
To distinguish positive stress, which makes us think clearly during the exam, and helps us make balanced decisions in a critical situation, from chronic stress, which changes lives to worse, we can introduce two concepts:
Eustress – “good” and motivating stress; a state in which we are ready to make decisions and realize our goals,
Distress – “bad” stress, debilitating, paralyzing or discouraging; if it is prolonged, it causes tiredness, suffering, illness.
Stress is a state that affects the entire body. The answer to it is the launch of the mental regulation function.
As mentioned, stress also affects the psyche. It may be the cause of two very strong reactions: anxiety or anger, but also such symptoms as:
Every day we meet many new situations and hundreds of recurring ones. Each of them must be assessed and properly classified: as one that is not important to us, one that is favorable or negative. Psychologists call this process a primary assessment.
Primary evaluation is subjective. What one perceives as a threat might mean nothing to another. If an event is perceived as stressful, it is usually considered as a loss (something that has already happened), a threat (predicted harm) or challenge (requires estimating potential losses and profits).
Primary assessment is often also sudden. This is related to the biological mechanism of stress – a quick response allows you to fight or escape in an emergency. This rapidity of reaction, however, makes the hastily taken assessment wrong, and often there is no real danger.
When the situation is properly identified, the secondary assessment process begins, which involves figuring out one’s own ability to deal with it. These two assessments depend on whether and how we deal with stress.
After making the primary and secondary assessment, you can make two decisions based on them, the aim of which is to restore the balance.
The decision can be:
One decision does not exclude the other, both can overlap. The way you manage stress can reduce its impact and alleviate the consequences, so you should know the techniques that can help. Fortunately, there are several ways to overcome stress.
The techniques of coping with stress can be divided into four groups:
Avoidance strategies, or denial, are usually assessed as an improper approach to stress – it is strongly recommended to confront the problem. However, there are situations in which the avoidance strategy may turn out to be the best solution.
If the stress factor is noise, bad lighting, discomfort – the best way will be to avoid these factors by changing the environment: soundproofing of the room, wearing headphones isolating sounds, installing blinds, changes made at the workplace. Sometimes you must take more drastic decisions – such as changing jobs, moving to a new house or ending a relationship with a person who has a clearly unfavorable effect on you.
The body has some resources to cope with stress. There is a conception that they form a system called the antistress. The anti-stress system exists next to the stressful system and is in balance with it.
The stress-inhibitory effects have such factors that we have no influence on (such as oxytocin secretion or amygdala), but also the general state of health. That is why it is so important to keep your body in good shape. Attention should be paid to physical activity, diet (should be rich in proper macro and microelements, especially important is the level of magnesium), adequate hydration.
Exercises in the morning or after returning from work help you deal with the tension that arises because of the release of adrenaline. Intensive training not only improves the overall form but also allows you to break away from thinking about problems. Physical fatigue usually also makes it easier to fall asleep.
A crucial element of a healthy lifestyle is a reasonable approach to drugs: coffee and alcohol.
Caffeine – for many, morning coffee is necessary for the day to start for good. Caffeine stimulates, removes fatigue, improves mood, thanks to it it’s easier to concentrate, focus attention, memorize. However, too much caffeine has an adverse effect: agitation becomes excessive, the heart beats anxiously, there is a risk of dehydration (diuresis increases, i.e., the amount of urine excreted is greater than the amount of liquid drunk). Coffee and other drinks having caffeine should be drunk in moderation.
Alcohol – helps to relax, so it seems that it relieves symptoms of stress. However, it is a short-term strategy and overall, causing huge damage to your body – it is very easy to get addicted and delude yourself that the problems have been solved.
You go to a meeting with friends, but every now and then you check the phone, read e-mails. You stop watching the movie and read the text message. You realize that during a relaxing bath you start to think about your problems at work … Even if you decide yourself that it is time to rest and decide to “do nothing,” it is not always successful. Forcing the body to lie down is easy. It is much harder to get your brain to relax.
Everyone has their own “boss” – a sense of responsibility, internal motivation, their own. It is our strength, thanks to which we can force ourselves to perform even boring or unpleasant duties. However, nurturing it can also lead to the fact that during the rest control appear and prevent the loosening of thoughts.
Things that can help you are listening to music or listening to the sounds of nature. Because music affects the well-being of a person, listening to it makes it possible to calm down and relax in a situation of increased stress. Listening to music improves mood and provides positive experiences. Sometimes it also helps to relieve tension, especially when it is accompanied by a dance or a relaxing bath. To remove restless thoughts, it also helps to listen to the sounds of nature – real ones or appropriately prepared relaxation recordings.
A bath or massage with the addition of aromatic oils will help you relax strained. Essential oils from oranges, lavenders and lemon balms have calming and soothing properties, so you should use them to prepare a relaxing bath.
The purpose of relaxation techniques is to put the body into a state of relaxation by reducing muscle tension. The reason for this tension is an excess of stimuli or needs that cannot be satisfied at any given time.
According to Jacobson, to achieve relaxation, a complete lack of movement of each muscle is necessary. Of course, muscle tightening is necessary to perform various tasks and move, but much of muscle tension is unnecessary and pointless.
Learning this technique involves conscious tensioning and then loosening of individual muscle groups. Repetition of such exercises hundreds of times makes the almost automatic ability to relax muscles appear, which helps to get rid of tension.
Autogenic training by Schultz counteracts fatigue and facilitates “mental regeneration.” It lowers the general muscle tone. This state of relaxation contributes to the creation of a positive self-image through acceptance and self-confidence.
This method consists of such an impact on one’s own body and psyche to release the reaction of detente. Learning to exercise consists of several stages:
Because the emotional tension causes muscle tension and vice versa, you can control one and the other with different “anti-stress” toys: balls, squares, animals, and people. They are made of various materials, and kneading and squeezing them are a simple way to get rid of internal tension.
You can also try to relieve your stress differently. For many people, a great way to free yourself from emotions is screaming. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a place where the cry will not bother anyone.
Sports – especially all forms of sports or martial arts are also helpful. There, accumulated emotions can be safely thrown away.
Autosuggestion is influencing through words spoken aloud or in thoughts and referring to yourself.
Autosuggestion should be positive. You can use affirmative statements in it, that is, repeat positive statements about yourself, such as “I can do it,” “I am strong.” Such statements help to mobilize and find the necessary energy.
It is worth bearing in mind that the negative suggestion also has an impact. If you repeat “I cannot do it, I cannot do it, I’m useless” – it’s harder to find the strength necessary to complete the task. Try to avoid this type of internal discussions.
Coping with emotions cannot be started without careful observation of oneself and learning to recognize and name feelings. The ability to distinguish one emotion from emotions that torment us is necessary to act.
When you feel a growing tension, answer the question “What annoys me? Why am I annoyed? What worries me? ” Sometimes it may turn out that the cause is trivial, and it can be easily removed to prevent the build-up of tension.
Feelings are also a way of informing us of our not fully aware needs. Their satisfaction reduces the level of stress experienced.
If you know that you are in an extremely stressful situation, you can prepare for it sooner. This is served by the visualization, or subsequent conceiving of the situation – the sequence of images, the accompanying smells and flavors.
If the visualization triggers a stress reaction, it is an opportunity to analyze feelings and control them. Multiple replaying of the situation in your mind will also allow you to get used to the situation – with time the reaction to it will become weaker and when it comes time to face reality, it will not be as stimulating.
There are many meditation techniques. They can accompany exercises (such as yoga) or rely on calm breathing (counting in the breaths and exhalations, but without trying to interfere with the pace or length), limiting any activity and observing your thoughts. Meditation helps to relax, to break away from the stressful situation and to get the proper distance to it.
Although there is no one, sure and always an effective way to deal with situations that stress you, try different techniques to find one that will teach us how to overcome stress.