By Scott Pack
Even at the best of times, life can be pretty stressful. Between work, family, your commute, unexpected life changes and expenses, the evening news, your Twitter feed, and on and on, it may seem like you have a limitless number of things pushing and pulling your body out of balance. And during times of stress, your body senses a disruption to the status quo and produces higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol, effectively triggering your fight or flight response.
Although a natural response, there are a number of ways stress can impact your health when you feel overwhelmed for too long.
Even if you can’t directly attribute it, stress may be at the root of many health issues—some of which have even been shown to negatively impact the immune system. In times of stress, you are more likely to cope with emotional eating—reaching for your favorite cookie, candy, or comfort meal. When you miss out on the essential nutrients your body needs to physically function at its best, you put further stress on your body. And, if unchecked, this cycle can become a spiral.
Mental and Mood Effects
Just like any other precious ecosystem, your body works best when everything is in balance. When your body feels the impact of unchecked stress, so do the mental and emotional parts of you. And vice versa.
Among other ailments, mental and emotional stress can manifest through:
- Emotional eating
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Irritability or anger
The first step to managing stress is to understand the ways it can impact your physical and mental health and then develop strategies for both short- and long-term self-care. Just remember, the most important part of stress management is taking care of yourself.
When you feel overwhelmed, some strategies may include:
- Walk away from the stressful situation
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet
- Stock up on healthy snacks
- Take a multivitamin to fill potential dietary gaps
- Get 10 minutes of sunshine
- Journal/free write
- Crack some jokes with friends or loved ones
- Say no—it’s okay to put yourself first
- Do something active, like a hike, swim, jog, or a yoga class
- Confide in someone
- Change your environment
- Draw a warm bath
If you feel like you constantly struggle with stress, and short-term fixes don’t work, it may be a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional. There is nothing embarrassing about visiting counselors, therapists, or doctors who have years of education and are dedicated to your well-being. If nothing else, these professionals can help you take a step back to figure out what triggers your thoughts and emotions and give you new skills to achieve a better mindset.
Through all life throws at you, managing your stress is possible. Take time. Time to breathe. Time to assess why you feel the way to do. And time for some much-deserved self-care.