Getting to the bottom of stress

Are you a stressed individual? Do you find it difficult to cope with the load of life, and regularly find yourself freaking out when it all gets a bit much? You are not alone. Coping with stress is something we all have to do and some of us are better at dealing with it than others. Some of us even thrive off that stress. If you want to get to the bottom of controlling stress in your life, it is first useful to understand what stress is.

First and foremost, stress is not always bad. It can actually be very good for us and have an incredibly positive effect on our lives. Other times it can have the opposite effect. The things in our lives that ultimately lead us to feeling stressed are called ‘stressors’. A stressor is anything that places a demand on us. The feeling or reaction we get from that stressor, be it physical or emotional, is the stress so many of us talk about.

Types of stress

When that demand has a positive effect on us, it falls under the category of ‘eustress’ (pronounced ‘you-stress’). These types of stressors promote feelings of motivation, excitement and generally drive us to be more productive and happier. Examples of eustress may include getting a new job, getting married, buying your first home or going on holiday.

When the demand has a negative effect on us, we call this ‘distress’. Feelings of distress include anxiety, worry and concern, which generally lead us to become less productive in our lives. Examples of distress include losing a job, getting divorced, selling your long-term family home or injuring yourself.

Coping with stress

If you are finding yourself living a life of constant ‘distress’ and things are getting too much, then it’s useful to know some techniques / things to try to offload the stress. A barrage of negatively stressful situations over a long period of time can have a negative effect on your mental and physical health. It’s good news however, that some of the most effective treatments for stress management are simple and easy to implement into your life with a little bit of planning.

Examples of stress management techniques include:

  • Breathing: This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how poorly some people breathe. Time spent going through some deep breathing exercises, learning to use your diaphragm and abdomen, can really calm the system when you’re feeling stressed.
  • Exercise: One of the best things you can do to flip stress on its ugly head is to get out and move. Walk, jog, run, cycle, go to the gym, kayak, rollerblade, play basketball or football, anything… Literally anything that can take you out of the stressful situation and allow you to focus your mind elsewhere can have a profound effect on helping you control those distressful feelings and reactions. Having a regular hobby is something we strongly recommend you consider bringing into your life. Break up the rat-race!
  • Planning: If life is hectic, and that stresses you out in a bad way, try planning your life a bit more. Have a schedule you can easily stick to. Maybe some order in your life is just what you need. Disorder is most definitely one of those ‘distressors’ for many people. You can plan meals, have a bedtime schedule for the kids, an exercise schedule for you and your partner, or a work schedule which allows you to plan some down-time during the day to unwind a little bit before it all kicks off for the afternoon.
  • Drink water, eat healthily: If you are good at hitting your water, fruit and vegetable targets each day, and steering clear of the indulgent foods, you’ll know how good you can feel from that alone. Having a poor diet and leaving yourself dehydrated each day is itself a negative stressor for your body. You’ll likely feel sluggish, tired, irritable and demotivated. How are you then meant to deal with all the other demanding tasks being thrown at you day-to-day? Give yourself a healthy baseline and your bucket may not overfill quite so quickly.
  • Talk: A great way to deal with stress is to talk it out with a loved one, close friend, or a professional. Being stressed can leave you feeling helpless and unable to organise your thoughts and feelings into something that makes sense to you. Why not have a little help? A doctor, psychologist, life coach or counsellor may be just what you are looking for. They can teach you ways to organise your mind, calm your life and leave you feeling ready for each day.

If you would like to learn more about stress, the effect it can have on your body, and ways in which to deal with it, please speak to us next time you are in. Osteopaths are full of wise, helpful lifestyle advice that can help you to start leading the life you want. We can also help put you in touch with the right professionals, should you want to go down that path.

References

  1. Healthline. 2019. Eustress vs. Distress: When Your Stress Might Actually Be Doing You Good. [Online]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-harness-eustress. [Accessed 08 February 2021]
  2. Li, CT. et al. 2016. Eustress or distress: an empirical study of perceived stress in everyday college life. [Online]. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/308043050_Eustress_or_distress_an_empirical_study_of_perceived_stress_in_everyday_college_life. [Accessed 08 February 2021]

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