And what to do about it.
Stress seems to be one of the most commonly used words nowadays. Think about it, how many times have you heard someone say: “Oh, I’m stressed out, I’ve got so much on my plate!” or something similar? And apart from that, it’s not just adults with jobs and loaded responsibilities feeling it anymore, this term has transpired onto young people as well.
But, are you actually experiencing stress? How do you know that you are experiencing it? Here are a couple of tell-tale signs of stress and some practical ways how to deal with it.
Signs of Stress
Stress is most certainly not all in your head, although it might start there. There are various different bodily symptoms that you may experience: tension headaches, sore muscles (especially in your shoulders and neck), low energy levels, insomnia or an uneasy stomach. Some people might even start chewing their nails or the insides of their mouths or clenching their jaw when they go through a stressful time.
Stress can make your thoughts feel all jumbled up and one can easily become forgetful with everyday things that you would normally easily remember. You’ll find your thoughts constantly gravitating towards those things that are stressing you out, making it hard for you to unwind and just live in the moment. This has put a serious damper on my own social life in the past.
As with everything else, stress messes with your emotions. Because you’re so tightly wound, you’ll likely be very irritable, agitated or frustrated all the time for no reason or even go through bouts of unexplained moodiness.
More often than not, stress will also affect the quality of sleep you get which in turn can aggravate your irritability and moodiness.
Lastly, the one you were probably trying to avoid happening: stress affects your progress at work and school. Stress makes it harder for you to concentrate and this is especially true when it comes to mentally taxing activities like studying for a big exam or finishing an important project at work. In 2010 the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment reported more than 25% of their students said that stress significantly lowered their grades or ability to finish a course.
What To Do
Hold on there, step away from the cliff. The hardest part is over, you realised you are stressing out and can admit that you need to do something about it (otherwise you wouldn’t have made it this far into the article!). Now you just need to, you know, actually do something about it.
Exercise is a good way to force yourself into a new environment which takes your mind away from your problems. Apart from that, exercising also has a chemical effect on your body since it releases feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. These endorphins will put you on a natural high, which can help alleviate some of that built-up tension. Being more active doesn't have to be something you dread. Start participating in a sport you enjoy, go walking with a friend or better yet, take your furry friend for a walk.
Get Out There
Spending time with your loved ones can also help improve your stress levels. Often times having someone to talk to, someone who will act as a type of a soundboard can do wonders. Are all of your friends and family members unavailable? That's no problem at all! Studies have shown that petting or playing with a pet (especially cats and dogs) can also aid tremendously in boosting your mood and reducing stress.
Write It Out
Writing every day can have quite a meditative effect on you. Start a gratitude journal and write down what makes you happy or what you are grateful for. Doing this can help put things into perspective and increase positive thoughts. If you keep your head filled with everything you're thankful for there won't be enough space left for stress-loaded thoughts!
This list of stress-curbing suggestions is pretty basic and there are many other practical things you could do that have not been included. But, nevertheless, I hope that this article will help you in reducing your stress.
Often times, practical suggestions like these are insufficient in dealing with stress. If that is the case, you might want to consider one of our stress-management life skills courses!