We all experience stress in our lives. Because the vast majority of health problems are caused or influenced by stress, it’s important to understand how stress affects your body and learn effective stress management techniques to make stress work for you rather than against you.
What Is Stress?
Stress is your body’s response to changes in your life. Because life involves constant change, there is no avoiding stress. This is why your goal shouldn’t be to eliminate all stress but to eliminate unnecessary stress and effectively manage the rest. There are some common causes of stress that many people experience, but each person is different.
Effects of Stress
Just as stress is perceived differently by each of us, stress affects us all in ways that are unique to us.
One person may experience headaches, while another may find stomach upset is a common reaction, and a third may experience any of a number of other symptoms. While we all react to stress in our own ways, there is a long list of commonly experienced effects of stress that range from mild to life-threatening. Stress can affect immunity, which can impact virtually all areas of health. Stress can affect mood in many ways as well.
Effective Stress Management
Stress can be effectively managed in many different ways. The best stress management plans usually include a mix of stress relievers that address stress physically and psychologically and help to develop resilience and coping skills.
Some stress relief techniques can work in just a few minutes to calm the body’s stress response. These techniques offer a “quick fix” that helps you feel calmer at the moment, and this can help in several ways. When your stress response is not triggered, you may approach problems more thoughtfully and proactively. You may be less likely to lash out at others out of frustration, which can keep your relationships healthier. Nipping your stress response in the bud can also keep you from experiencing chronic stress.
Quick stress relievers like breathing exercises, for example, may not build your resilience to future stress or minimize the stress that you face, but they can help calm the body’s physiology.
Some techniques are less convenient to use when you are in the middle of a stressful situation. But if you practice them regularly, they can help you manage stress in general by being less reactive to it and more able to reverse your stress response quickly and easily.
Long-term healthy habits, like exercise or regular meditation, can help to promote resilience toward stress if you make them a regular part of your life. Communication skills and other lifestyle skills can be helpful in managing stress and changing how we feel from “overwhelmed” to “challenged” or even “stimulated.”
You may not be able to completely eliminate stress from your life or even the biggest stress, but there are areas where you can minimize it and get it to a manageable level. Any stress that you can cut out can minimize your overall stress load. For example, ending even one toxic relationship can help you more effectively deal with other stress you experience because you may feel less overwhelmed.
Discovering a wide variety of stress management techniques, and then choosing a mix that fits your needs, can be a key strategy for effective stress relief.