Stress has a way to sneak up on you, and it will wreak havoc on your health if left unaddressed. Given that, it’s a good idea to have a clear vision of not only what stress is — its causes and symptoms — but also what you can do to lower your stress levels, besides going to a spa and getting a massage Palm Springs.
In this article we’re going to cover both those topics, starting with helping you identify when your stress levels might be elevated.
Stress: The Basics
Stress is how the human body reacts to pressure, be it real or imagined. As part of the body’s self-preservation instincts, stress is our reaction to potential threats to our safety and well-being, as well as the safety of the people we care for. The keyword here is “potential”, as there is a lot that can be a potential threat, and therefore there is a lot that can become a potential source of stress. Furthermore, what causes intense stress in one person may not affect another.
Common sources of stress include job insecurity, relationship problems, looming deadlines, social anxiety, and even just overall worry over the future brought upon by watching the news. But that’s just dipping the toe into what can cause stress. Celebrities often report feeling stress brought upon by impostor syndrome, and anything that causes an overall feeling of not being able to control a situation can cause intense stress.
All of this is to say that while trying to identify the source of your stress is useful, the only surefire way to know if you are stressed or not is to watch the signals your body is giving you. After all, it is entirely possible to be stressed for reasons that are not immediately apparent, just as it is possible to go through incredibly stressful situations and feel fine afterward. With that in mind, here are some of the most common physical signs of stress:
- Headaches — Tension headaches are caused by contractions in the muscles around your head, and they often feel like a band is squeezing your head.
- Stomach issues — Stress can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to stomach problems. Holding tension in your abdominal muscles can also contribute to bloating, excess gas, and other digestive issues.
- Muscle tension — Stress can often lead people to hold tension in their muscles, which can lead to pain and discomfort. The shoulder, neck, and abdominal areas are commonly affected.
- Pain sensitivity — stress also increases pain perception. This means that chronic pains and injuries may act up or hurt more when you are stressed.
- Chest pain and increased heart rate — both can be caused by stress and will be experienced more intensely in the lead up to and during panic attacks.
- Insomnia — stress hormones can lead to trouble falling asleep or a reduction in sleep quality. Sleep issues can also be a sign of depression, so keep an eye on your sleep quality.
A subjective feeling of constant worry and brain fogginess is also associated with stress. But these can be hard to spot. And if you’ve found that you are indeed showing signs of stress regularly — or even suffering from chronic stress — here are some activities that can help you relax. Remember that nothing is stopping you from trying several items on this list back to back.
A good workout can help with your stress levels in a variety of ways. Leading a more active lifestyle will help regulate your hormonal levels, which will aid your body in dealing with stress. The body’s stress response is almost entirely governed by hormones after all, with cortisol being the main hormone responsible for it.
The second benefit of working out is as a release valve. Many find an intense workout to be a good stress relief valve, allowing you to essentially sweat the stress away.
To maintain your health and regulate stress, the World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week. Accompanied by resistance training at least twice a week.
There are many ways to meditate, but one method that has been gaining popularity is that of mindful meditation. It consists of taking a few minutes to focus on the present sensory information being delivered to you, such as the feeling of your clothes, the smell of the room, the rhythm of your breathing. Mindful meditation has the advantage of being simpler and easier to learn than other alternatives, while also being an effective way to manage stress and even help prevent panic attacks.
Meditation also has the advantage of being something you can engage with at any time and nearly anywhere, with no equipment needed. Look up some videos on how to do it if you’re interested; you can get the basics down in a couple of hours. Taking the time to focus on soothing music or carefully working on an adult coloring book can also put you in a meditative-like state if done correctly.
The simple act of walking can lead to the release of endorphins in the brain, which can help reduce feelings of stress. The benefits are greater when you walk outside.
Walking is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Not only does it provide benefits associated with exercise, but it can also help your brain problem solve and deal with emotional issues. Fresh air and contact with nature are also known to have stress-relieving properties.
Sleep isn’t always considered an “activity”, but as far as your stress is concerned, it should be. Sleep is when your body performs a variety of self-maintenance tasks, including regulating your hormonal levels, which can reduce feelings of stress. On top of that, stress can also lead to insomnia, which creates a loop. The more stressed you are the harder it is to get quality sleep, which makes you more likely to stay stressed.
You can mitigate these issues yourself by a) following a sleep schedule, b) doing your best to relax before going to bed and c) getting in some daytime naps when possible. Avoiding sources of stress in the hours leading up to your bedtime is also wise — make sure you’re not answering work emails or reading the news right before trying to get some sleep.
5. Warm bath
Soaking in a warm bath is another way to help your body relax. Soaking in a warm bath gives you a chance to slow down and enjoy something nice. On top of that, the heat can help with muscle aches and can relieve pent-up tension around your body. And you can further boost the relaxing effect by using bath salts with relaxing aromas such as lavender or rosemary.