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I think most of us hear all about stress and stress management, but not all really know the importance of recognizing and managing stress. My recent post on Your Stress Bucket was my introduction to the concept of the stress bucket as well as basic stress management.
My Wellness Basket is about holistic wellness. Holistic wellness looks at the root cause of illness and works on all the facets involved. While we are filling our Wellness Basket, maintaining our stress buckets, and working on our journey to wellness, it’s important to recognize stress (know what it is and what causes us personal stress) and also know how to manage it.
What Is Stress?
Stress is an everyday occurrence. You really can not avoid it.
The World Health Organization says, “Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain.” Stress is basically a range of physical and psychological responses that occur when you experience a challenging or threatening situation. Stress is simply your body’s natural response to demands or pressures, and it can be both positive and negative.
Positive stress can provide a sense of excitement, motivation, and achievement, whereas negative stress (also known as distress,) can cause anxiety, frustration, and exhaustion.
The body responds to stress by releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate. While some stress is normal and even necessary for survival, chronic or excessive stress can have negative impacts on mental and physical health. This chronic stress can lead to issues such as anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, high blood pressure, and sleep disturbances.
Thus you can see that managing stress is important. But first you must identify the causes and sources of your stress.
Managing Stress: Identifying Causes & Sources
Stress can be caused by a variety of factors, including home or work-related accomplishments and pressures, financial difficulties, falling in love, relationship issues, major life changes, and health problems.
Martha Davis, PhD, in her book titled The Relaxation & Stress Workbook, identifies 4 basic sources of stress: Environment, Physiological, Social, and Thoughts. Take a moment to reflect on these areas in your own life. What might be affecting you?
What’s the weather been like? Cold? Hot? Sunny? Cloudy? Do you live or work near a lot of traffic and noise? What’s the air quality like? Is there a lot of pollen? Air pollution?
We talked a lot about these in the post about your stress bucket. Stress can cause physiological symptoms but physiological symptoms can cause stress. There’s a lot in this category to consider: sleep, injuries, illness, exercise, nutrition, and more. Are you sleeping well? Getting enough nutrients? Exercise? Have you been ill?
How is your social responsibilities affecting you? Responsibilities at work and at home? How are your family relationships going? Work Relationships? Friends?
What are the thoughts going on in your head? Do you have a positive or negative mindset? How do you interpret your everyday experiences? How do you foresee your future? The thoughts you have about all of the events of your day and life affect your stress level.
Now that you have identified the causes or sources of stress, lets talk about managing stress.
20 Effective Strategies To Manage Stress
In addition to figuring out what your stressors are and how you react to these stressors, stress management plays a huge role in your overall wellness. Practically every body system is affected by stress. When I’m stressed my nervous system responds with bouts of insomnia and my digestive system becomes irritated. I’m sure the rest of my body systems are affected too but those are the two that are most noticeable for me. How about yourself?
My Wellness Basket is going to cover stress management frequently. I’ll cover topics on nutrition, rest, mindfulness, movement, simplicity, and more- all related to stress management. For now- let’s start SIMPLE. Here’s a list of stress management techniques that are fairly self-explanatory. Take some time to reflect on what your stressors are and which of these methods might be worth exploring. In future posts we will talk more in depth about a number of these methods and more!
- Deep breathing exercises
- regular exercise
- spending time in nature
- practicing gratitude
- taking breaks throughout the day
- time management
- affirmations/positive self-talk
- making adequate sleep a priority
- taking a relaxing bubble bath
- getting a massage (regularly)
- relaxing music
- engaging in a hobby that’s just for fun
- eating a natural, balanced, healthy diet
- limiting caffeine and other stimulants
- seeking counseling if needed
When managing stress, t’s important to note that different techniques work better for some individuals than others. But you can’t really tell if it works for you without trying. I encourage you to try any of the above methods that are physically possible for you at least three times before deciding if it’s a good tool for you to include in your wellness basket.
Sources To Help You While Managing Stress
Need some tools or motivation to get started making stress management a priority? Check these out!
Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook – as mentioned above, this is a great source book full of great ideas!
Need one for a teen in your life? Another workbook for stress!
Music? I love this CD to help me calm down. I love playing it while making dinner. Oh, this is a good one too! But really- any of your favorite music may help!
Journaling with this may be helpful!
Bubble bath! It’s not something I use for every warm bath when I escape to read but it’s a nice extra pleasure once in awhile! And this one is a nice natural brand.
Don’t forget tea! In case you have missed these posts on Chamomile, Lemon Balm, or Tulsi! Check them out and keep reading the Herb of the Month posts! So many of them help us deal with stress in some manner!
What are the stress factors in YOUR life? What management techniques have you tried that work for you?