We all face stress — it’s a normal and natural part of life. However, when stress becomes chronic, it can affect your physical and mental health.
There are different types of stress:
- Regular stress: family, work and daily responsibilities.
- Negative stress: dramatic life changes, illness, death, divorce, loss of job.
- Traumatic stress: major accident, life disruption, natural disaster.
After an unpredictable year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us feel the long-term physical and emotional effects of negative stress.
“Physical stress responses include headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue, upset stomach and sleeping issues,” says Dr. Thom Bunnell, a Primary Care Physician at St. Elizabeth Physicians. “Emotional responses include feeling restless, anxious, overwhelmed and irritable — which we can all relate to.”
These stress responses can cause a significant impact on your behavior, from changed eating habits to drug or alcohol abuse and social withdrawal. The key is to be aware of these stress triggers — and your response to them.
“Everyone has a threshold for dealing with stress,” says Dr. Bunnell. “As long as your stressors are below that threshold, you’re ok. But when your stress level ratchets up over your threshold, you can start experiencing physical and emotional symptoms.”
5 Ways to Reduce Stress
Channel your stress into something positive by trying one of the following stress-reducers:
- Get moving — regular physical activity is one of the best ways to manage your stress level. Head out on a hike or hit the pavement for a long run. Holistic options like tai chi, yoga and massage are all great for reducing stress too.
- Use relaxation techniques — deep breathing and mediation are excellent ways to relax and reduce stress. If you have a hard time quieting your mind, try out a guided meditation on apps like Headspace or Peloton.
- Keep a sense of humor — the adage “laughter is the best medicine” actually holds true. From a simple smile to a deep belly laugh, keeping your sense of humor is a great way to lower your stress.
- Tap into a hobby — maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to surf or knit a blanket —now’s the time! A new hobby can add a different level of enjoyment to your daily life, and in turn, lower your stress levels. You can also plug back into an existing hobby like gardening, playing on a rec sports team or picking up a new book.
- Make an effort to be with people — when we’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, it’s easy just to withdraw. Fight the urge to isolate and make plans to spend time with family and friends who bring you joy.
Let your gut be your guide and implement de-stressor techniques whenever possible to help you stay calm. If you need extra support during this time, make an appointment with a St. Elizabeth Primary Care Physicians. Our team is here to help you meet all of your physical and emotional needs.