- Adam Melnyk
5 ways to manage stress
Updated: Aug 7, 2021
In small doses, stress is good for you; it's very healthy and keeps your body in good working order. Hell, some of us seek stress out in the forms of thrill rides, haunted houses, and horror movies, to name a few. Putting yourself in a state of flight or fight causes a release of adrenaline and cortisol into your body in an attempt to keep you safe and gives you that "rush."; Fortunately, the thrill ride, haunted house, and horror movie all end leaving us feeling thrilled and excited.
Normally, adrenaline and cortisol influx is extremely good as you are in danger and need help now! The adrenaline increases your blood pressure and heart rate to get your blood to your muscles and brain ASAP. You'll find yourself breathing rapidly as your body increases the oxygen within your body and remove the build-up of carbon dioxide. Cortisol is released to help manage your energy levels and suppress your immune system as we aren't worried about dying from a disease. We are going to die from whatever is happening right now!
Have you ever wondered why you get sick during exams or when things aren't going well? You can blame Cortisol for that. It stops the release of adrenaline and cortisol, and we go about our happy merry ways! Now the good news is once the movie ends, the roller-coaster is done and over, and we make it out of the haunted house. Our bodies know that we are safe and sound.
What happens if the haunted house doesn't end, the movie never stops, and the roller coaster keeps going? That is exactly what happens with long-term stressors; the ride never ends. Often we don't even notice the long-term stress being there as we are so used to it..... but it is. Have you ever been worried about a class? What about being behind on your bills? You're in a relationship that you want to end but can never bring yourself to do it finally? The list goes on and on, but these are long-term stressors. We all have them; no one is exempt, and if we fail to address these stressors, the results could be disastrous. If we don't solve these long-term stressors, it's not uncommon to see someone dive into depression, Have anxiety over every little thing, problems with their stomach/sleeping, weight gain, or problems just concentrating on, naming a few.
I had an old coworker, a big guy who was the stereotypical macho man. He was juggling so many things in his life like a surprise payment for his condo roof for over $5,000, abuse at work, a struggling relationship, and a small friends group that was always out of town. I talked to him about it, but he would always reply when asked how he was doing, "ya, I'm fine. This really isn't an issue for me." He would always downplay what was going on in his life, and to his credit, he managed to keep it together.... until he didn't.
One day after years of neglecting these issues, his life came tumbling down, and it all started with him standing up at work and voicing his concerns about his job. by simply voicing his opposition to his job, his managers fired him one day before his probation ended. With that, he had no more income to pay his surprise payment. All those comments at work about him not being good enough came true. His relationship went from being on the rocks to slowly sinking below the waves. With no one to talk to, he ultimately was admitted to the psychiatric ward for the night. Thankfully he was able to sort himself out over the course of a month with many mental health supports, but sometimes this isn't always the case.
Now the good news is all stressors can be fixed. The problem is figuring out what your long-term stressors are. The easiest way to figure that out is to ask what do you think about the most? When you complain to someone, what is usually the source of your issues or complaints? What is something that you don't want to think about? By asking yourself these questions, you will be able to figure out what is causing you the stress, and as GI JOE says, "knowledge is power, and knowing is half the battle" you can actually take steps to reduce it in your own life!
Unfortunately, though sometimes these long-term stressors can take months, if not years, to sort out, so we need strategies to help manage these stressors right now until we fix the problem.
You will hear this time and time again workout.... now I know sometimes people can't work out, or that's not your jimmy jam. That's okay; what is important is that you are doing something physical. This could be going for a run, going paintballing, rock climbing, go-karting, going for a walk, Swimming, or hiking! This will help increase your happy hormones (serotonin and dopamine) and keep your mind healthy and happy.
2. Change it up!
You have been studying all week for your test, and now all you can think about is your test. This is a good sign that you need to break it up, your brain thrives off of diversity, and you can't keep hammering it with the same thing every day. Take yourself away from your books or whatever you've been doing and do something completely different. This is why vacations are so important to mental health!
If you're someone who is constantly doing things for other people and are always going out of their way to help someone else, it might be time to step back. When life starts to become demanding, it's okay to say no. You might feel like a shitty coworker or friend, but if your body is at its limit and you need to sort out what's on your plate now before taking putting more on your plate.
4. Spend time with your friends!
Nothing is more important than being around your friends. In times of stress, we need our social supports to lift us and keep us going. Don't believe me? Well, all you have to do is think of a time in your life where all you needed was someone to listen to you but with no one to go to. Having friends that you can talk to and be vulnerable around is extremely important. They can lift you up when you are down and push you forward when all you want to do is standstill.
5. Reduce the noise in your life!
How often are you checking your cellphone, How often do you watch TV, How much drama do you listen to about celebrities? You already have enough on your plate to deal with, and sometimes our brains need time to digest it all. Be kind to yourself, turn off your cellphone, pick up a book, remove the drama from your life, and you will be happier for it. Never be afraid or ashamed of doing some mind-numbing chore instead of watching TV or watching the news sometimes; we need the lack of stimulation to help fix our problems.
Now with that, those are 5 simple ways to help reduce stress in your life. You are now well on your way to helping to reduce your stress and one your way to a happier life! Remember to be kind to yourself.