Today we have a guest post written by Kay from Rose-Minded!
Not only can stress ruin your day, it can ruin your life; chronic stress has been proven to be deadly. According to Occupational Health and Safety and the National Council, about 90% of primary care visits are stress-related. The six leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, heart disease, accidental injury, respiratory disease, liver cirrhosis, and suicide, all attribute stress as a major contributing factor (Salleh, 2008).
So how can you avoid falling into these scary statistics? First, you need to clarify what good and bad stress are, respectively. Yes… some stress can be good!
Good stress can be considered your body’s natural motivator. Humans react to stressors in the environment that could potentially affect their well-being. When your body produces cortisol and adrenaline, it uses these hormones to motivate and energize you towards accomplishing a goal, escaping a risky situation, or making a quick decision.
When a car honks and you quickly move out of the way, or a forgotten deadline pops up and you cram all night, stress is your friend. If you don’t utilize these hormones, or you overreact to a stressor and produce too much, stress impacts your body and mind negatively.
Here’s where things get messy. Bad stress has so many harmful effects on health and wellness. It prevents people from performing their best, and often decreases the immune system’s defense mechanisms. Mental health suffers along with physical health; your body’s nutrients aren’t utilized properly and certain tissues can even be deteriorated!
When your boss is piling on the workload, or you can’t keep up with financial problems, bad stress is sure to follow (without the appropriate coping methods).
Read below to discover a few simple coping methods to help you overcome stress and its negative effects.
Photo by Katherine Hanlon
5 Simple Steps to Overcome Stress
Gratitude may seem like a simple concept, and it is, but did you know it can actually produce positive change in the brain? One study used college students to test the effects of gratitude on mental health, and found that compared to even counseling (by itself), writing gratitude letters was proven to have the most positive impact on the students’ mental health (Gaskin-Wasson, 2017).
To prevent stress from manifesting, try writing down 5 things you’re grateful for each morning. This practice will boost your mood and put your worries into perspective. In order to overcome stress, try practicing this activity once in the morning and once before you go to bed. You’ll notice the difference in your mental health soon after! For more on the benefits of gratitude, read How Gratitude Improves Your Mental Health.
Maybe you’ve heard of mindfulness by now, but here’s a recap either way: Mindfulness is being aware of physical and mental processes while remaining nonjudgmental and observant. This means, if a negative thought floats through your mind, all you have to do is acknowledge it, then move on. If you’re interested in practicing mindfulness, try mindful meditation!
Here’s an excerpt from 5 Ways Mindfulness Affects Your Brain, explaining mindfulness in more detail:
“Mindfulness is being aware and non-judgmental of the emotions and bodily sensations you feel in the present moment. It’s relatively easy, all you have to do is pay attention to what emotions you currently feel, and try not to worry about the past or stress about the future! Stay in the moment, focus on what you feel (without being evaluative or judgmental), and just notice it- acknowledge it.”
Mindfulness can reduce stress, just like meditation can. Focus your breathing and head to a quiet place; your stressors may pass through your mind but all you have to do is stay in the current moment and breathe. This too shall pass.
Dr. Kristin Neff is the head researcher behind the psychological term “self-compassion”. Self-compassion means treating yourself with the same kindness and forgiveness you would give a friend. Instead of self-esteem, which focuses on how you feel when you compare yourself to others, try practicing self-compassion! Now that you’re a mindful person, use these 5 Mindful Meditations to Increase Self-Compassion, so you can de-stress and develop strong self-love.
Trials and challenges will stress you out, but with self-compassion you can face anything! As long as you understand you’re only human, you’re doing your best, and you deserve love no matter what, any stressor can be reduced. Don’t know how self-compassionate you are, or want to find out more? Take Dr. Neff’s self-compassion test.
4. Emotional Awareness
Are you emotionally intelligent? Can you identify how you feel at any time of the day? Do you know how your moods have been changing over time?
These questions can be answered through mood-tracking or journaling! When you can visually see what has been stressing you out, and you notice the changes in your emotions and moods based on experiences, you can prepare for stressors and overcome them before they even stress you out. This process doesn’t have to be boring or painful either, just grab one of the free mood trackers from Rose-Minded and learn more about yourself.
You can also overcome stress through journaling. Writing in a journal develops emotional intelligence as well, especially when you go back and reflect on old entries. 7 Mental Health Journal Prompts for Stress Relief can get you started and help you to cope with and overcome any stressor you may face.
Although last, this simple step is certainly not least among this list of stress-busters. Social support is underrated, and many people now try to comfort themselves as much as they can when they’re stressed out or hurting. One of my psychology professors told me, humans are social animals, which means we thrive off interaction with others! Even if you’re introverted (like myself), friendships are necessary to overcome stress.
You don’t have to surround yourself with fake friends, or force yourself to go to parties every night, but developing sincere friendships with people who care about you will impact your life and ability to cope in many positive ways. Whenever I’m stressed out, and my anxious thoughts begin to spiral out of control, I know I have a strong support system who will listen and encourage me.
Choose from any of these 5 simple steps to reduce your anxiety and overcome any stress you feel (or may feel). Preventing stress from affecting you in the first place is an amazing way to overcome it. You can prevent stress with gratitude, meditation, self-compassion, emotional intelligence, and social support. Don’t forget to grab a journal, open your mind, and release any stress onto the page!
About the Author
Kay has been blogging for over a year about mental health, self-care, and lifestyle topics for young adult readers. She is a psychology major, and previously volunteered as a mental health crisis and suicide prevention worker. Her commitment to mental health awareness and supporting mental illness has helped her grow her website into a platform for health and wellness. Kay lives on the Central Coast of California and loves to play with her Golden Rottie, Morty. (Editor’s note: Morty is adorable!!)