By: J.A., Writer for Hope Instilled
Stress and pain can make you even sicker! Yes, some stress is good. But we need to be aware of how often we stress, and whether it is helpful, or a problem that may hurt our short-term or long-term health. So I will cover in-depth how you can manage three different stages of stress.
I used to not acknowledge my stress, not focus on self-care to improve it, and I lived with chronic stress for long time frames both before I became sick and after. I’ve suffered from: chronic pain stress, stress from depression, stress from family drama, job stress, stress from barely making ends meet, stress from low self-esteem, and more.
I have experienced a lot of stress in my life! Enough I assure you. But now, I’ve done a complete 180-degree change. I’ve made changes in my life that allow for less stress. I’ve figured out how to stop a lot of stress before it starts. When stress does take over, I have a toolbox of self-care initiatives to reduce it and eliminate it. Most importantly, I make sure to do them.
I have found ways to conquer my stress! Plus…
I’m a Highly Sensitive Person…
This means it is much easier for me to get stressed, while the average person can handle a lot more life frustrations before breaking. Sadly, being a highly sensitive person means it is also easier to get sick. The good news is once I learned this, I was able to alter my life and way of thinking to accommodate for my sensitivities. This led to less overall stress. I stopped myself from thinking I need to live my life like everyone else. I’m different, and I’ve accepted that. I think I’ve become better than the average person at handling my stress, even though it is easier for me to get stressed.
Some people may not realize how much time they actually spend stressed, how it affects them, have tools in place to combat it, or take action when necessary.
Think about these things:
From my experience there are:
If you really listen to your mind and your body, you will know exactly when you are at your tipping point of becoming stressed. Not always, but often enough. This might be difficult for some people. It could require working on being more mindful. For some, it might be just realizing what things normally cause you to be stressed. Then, being aware when those things happen, and realizing you have a choice of how you are going to deal with them.
So if you are aware of that moment when you have a choice, you can STOP stress from taking over! Now, this is obviously not applicable in cases of dealing with severe pain, the stress of a family member dying, an accident, or another traumatic event. Stress will come on quickly in those situations and it's okay to be stressed. You just need to manage it at that point. So some examples of stress you may be able to prevent would be: in a work or school situation where you become overwhelmed, handling multiple responsibilities at home, dealing with difficult people or family, etc. But, it is okay to have a little stress once in a while. However, if you are easily stressed, stressed a lot, or chronically stressed you may need to make some changes.
At that moment when you are aware of stress taking over if you can pause for just a minute, ask yourself is stressing about this really going to help me? Will it benefit me to be stressed? The answer should be no if stress causes you to lose focus, take longer to complete things, creates discomfort in your body, and so on… It sounds silly, but it really does work. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s almost automatic sometimes. Next, take a couple of deep breathes. Clear your mind for a couple of minutes.
Even if you are super busy trying to finish a project on a deadline, just 1-5 minutes of calming your mind (meditating) could mean an hour of more productive stress-free work. If you are in a situation where you are not dealing with a timeline, you might want to take a break and take a walk.
If you are dealing with a timeline situation, instead of walking or meditating consider taking 5 minutes to make a list. The lists are awesome! If you have too much going on in your head write it down. Then you won’t forget anything, you will get the satisfaction of checking things off a list as you go. In addition, you might reprioritize things and realize not everything on your list has to be done right away.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by thinking I have so many things to do, and not enough time. I also realize some of the things I’m obsessing about getting done could actually wait. Then by waiting, I will have less stress, which will allow me to better focus on the things that absolutely need to get done. Sometimes our priorities are all wrong, but we are too deep into the sinking sand to realize it. And then sometimes we are worried about things that are not very realistic. If that’s your problem, write down your worry, write down the worst-case scenario, the best-case scenario, and the realistic scenario. This will help you realize what is realistic, and what is not.
For whatever reason, you are now stressed and hopefully, you are fully aware of it. If it takes you a while to realize it, you might need to work on being more mindful.
It is now time to manage the stress so that you stay in a healthy stress scenario. Otherwise, stress can get in the way of getting things done, cause you to lose sleep, become sick, or even negatively affect those around you. Stress shows up differently for everyone. Some may just have mental problems such as a lack of concentration, negative thoughts, worry, and so on. Other people may have physical symptoms like biting their nails, twitching eyes, sweating, muscles tightening up, etc.
So how do you manage the stress? Well if you haven’t already, you might start by trying some of the ideas I mentioned above:
Some other options would be:
To manage your stress, it is essential you have a stress toolbox (actionable concepts you will take to relieve your stress when you become stressed). I have now given you many great options to add to your stress toolbox. It is up to you to decide what to add to your toolbox. Depending on the stress scenario, you may have different stress toolboxes for different stressful situations. I know I do. I think I’ve done all of these things at some point for various situations, to help reduce my stress levels. You might have to try a few different things in different scenarios to find out what works best for you.
When I was at my lowest points being chronically sick, dealing with fatigue, pain throughout my body, depression, worrying I was going to be in pain forever, I utilized different things for stress, than what I do now. I used to journal, but I didn’t want to write about my pain. I lost interest in hobbies. The sweet wine I used to drink caused migraines, and exercise was a struggle.
So one of the things that I used was meditation (which can help with pain but didn’t for me), it helped with the stress. Meditation helped increase my mindfulness, which helped me to just get through the day and not think about the next day or the day after that. I also colored a lot to calm my mind. Then on the really difficult days, Christian music helped me.
No matter what your stressful situation is, you can’t ignore the stress you are dealing with. Even if you can’t get rid of it completely, because you are dealing with a really big change in your life, or something very traumatizing. Everyone needs to practice self-care! It doesn’t matter how many responsibilities you have; how many people rely on you to do things for them. If you don’t take time for yourself, you are going to end up sick and be no help to anyone.
You also don’t want your stress to turn into anger, and negatively affect those around you. You may not be able to completely rid yourself of the stress, but self-care with help you to better manage it. Friends and family members should understand when you just need a little time to do something for yourself.
At this point, your stress has become an ongoing thing where it has started to or has already affected your day-to-day life for weeks, months, or longer. This isn’t abnormal. It basically happens to everyone at some point in their life. Chronic stress may cause insomnia, muscle pain, anxiety, anger, depression, a weakened immune system, chronic illness, or something else.
Definitely try some of the things mentioned above, make sure you are making time for self-care to at least keep stress levels a bit lower. But if you are dealing with a very traumatic or difficult situation in your life, you may also want to consider outside help like a therapist or psychologist. Also, consider an integrative psychiatrist, which we just created a bunch of great content about for you on Hope Instilled!
If you are dealing with something that is just going to take time for your stress levels to drop, you might want to try some all-natural supplements. There are many great supplements that help with improving cortisol levels, help with sleep, and just day-to-day living. They are not great for a quick fix but are great for handling ongoing stress. Here are 7 Adaptogenic Herbs or Adaptogens that Help Reduce Stress from Dr. Axe.
Most importantly, if you are dealing with stress that is ongoing, or very frequent stress that is affecting your health, it might be time to make some life changes. If you have a job that is making you unhappy and stressed, it is time to make adjustments or find something new. If you are dealing with toxic friends or family members, it is time to put yourself first and limit or eliminate those interactions. Or maybe it is time to drop some commitments because you are saying “yes” to too many things and it's overwhelming. Or maybe you have lost your zest and happiness in your day-to-day living, then it is time to refocus your life and figure out what matters. Maybe it is time to just focus more on your health and wellness overall, if that’s the case view my last blog Obtaining Wellness: The Most Important Healthy Choices to Pay Attention To.
Do you feel TRAPPED or feel like you LACK CONTROL over anything?
If you have been chronically stressed over a very long period of time, you might start to feel like you are trapped and there is no way out. I know how that goes because I’ve been there. Although you might not feel like you have a lot of control in your life, I promise you that you have more control than you think you do. You have control in the way you respond to things in your mind, and you have more control than you think you do in the actions that you take. You are making decisions all the time that either help or hurt you whether conscious or unconscious. But perhaps you don’t know what to do in the situation you are in and that’s okay. Because it is always possible to find someone out there who can help! It is just a matter of finding the right person you can trust, and be willing to listen and commit to their advice.
It is always possible to change your mindset by finding helpful books or articles to improve your self-esteem, or whatever it is that you struggle with. There are also many great alternative treatment options on our website, which may help with a chronic illness or mental health issue, along with information on the different types of therapists and integrative medicine treatment options.