Stress is an imbalance between the demands felt by someone and their feelings of being able to meet those demands – when failure of the demands has important consequences. Stressors include competition, frustration, injury and conflict.
Anxiety is a negative emotional state with feelings of worry, nervousness and apprehension that associate with activation of physical symptoms. It is a state that resembles fear, and can arise from a negative reaction to stress.
Learn how to squash the uncomfortable consequences of stress and anxiety with these 8 tips:
Remember: This Too Shall Pass
No-one managing their own life is devoid of stress and too much of it can lead to excessive worry, dread, an upset stomach, or difficulty breathing. The first step to overcoming such negative feelings is to recognise that you are experiencing a very common emotional state most commonly identified as anxiety. Although it’s uncomfortable, the negative feelings WILL PASS. Fighting the anxiety can make it stronger but, paradoxically, accepting that you are feeling anxious helps activate the body’s natural relaxation response.
Learn How to Self-Soothe
When faced with an anxiety-inducing situation, our body’s sympathetic nervous system then automatically triggers physiological changes. Our breathing quickens, adrenaline is secreted, and our heart begins to race.
Self-soothing techniques that cut the stress response include:
A rapid heart rate lowers with deep breathing techniques. The most commonly utilised strategy is breathing by contracting the diaphragm, a horizontal muscle in the chest located just above the stomach cavity.
To increase emotional comfort, it’s important to practice reassuring and realistic self-talk. When anxious, practice self-talk phrases such as:
“I will get through this.”
“I am safe right now.”
“My heart rate is slowing down. I can feel it”
“I am feeling anxious now, but I have the power to make myself calm.”
Stress causes our muscles to tighten and become tense. To increase physical comfort, tighten and release muscles beginning with the largest muscle group.
Check Your Diet
What we eat and drink largely impacts our emotional state. Foods most associated with increasing anxiety are ones that contain caffeine and alcohol. Even when consumed in small amounts, studies have found that the stimulating effects of caffeine can cause anxiety, trigger panic attacks, and increase feelings of nervousness and irritability. Similarly, although alcohol is often consumed to “take the edge off”, it dehydrates the body and ultimately increases anxiety.
Most of us know that exercise is good in order to support our physical health. For the past few decades, research has suggested that exercise is even more effective than medication. Maintaining a regular (healthy, non-obsessive) exercise routine reduces stress, improves mood, enhances self-esteem, and increases energy levels.
Get More Sleep
Nearly everyone feels a little cranky after a rough night’s sleep. Disrupted sleep is common in many emotional disorders and it’s difficult to know which started first – stress or poor sleep. Losing just a few hours of sleep increases feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and exhaustion.
Focus on the Here and Now
Stress typically strikes when you feel stuck in the past or fretting about the future. Take a deep breath, and notice where you are. Then notice what is happening and take it all in. Get in tune with your senses. Take a walk, feel the ground beneath your feet, listen to the birds chirping.
Remember that There are no Problems, only Situations
How we perceive situations turns them into problems. If we wish, we can choose to view challenging times as life experiences or lessons, or perhaps as an opportunity to practice our best coping skills. Changing your views about situations enables you to decide just how much ‘stress’ you allow into your life.
Just five to 10 minutes a day is valuable, and the more we practice meditation, the easier it becomes to stop, be still, and breathe our way through feelings of anxiety or stress. This then gives us the power to create calm.