Recently, my husband went out of town for 2 weeks leaving me alone to care for our 10-month old. First, let me start by saying kudos to all the single parents out there! You are amazing! I read a great little saying the other day – “Having kids is the most adorable way to go insane.” So, so true. I love spending time with my Little Peachick but it was so hard to get anything done without having a little break and, at times, it was a bit stressful. So that got me thinking about stress and how we handle it.
Stress occurs when the body is responding to emotional, physical, or mental changes, different situations, or forces. These can be internal such as feelings, expectations, etc. or external such as your environment or specific events. Illness, fear, anxiety, etc. are common negative causes but there can be causes that are good such as certain types of change.
Good Stress vs. Bad Stress
When most people think of stress, they are thinking of the bad kind. This type is caused by worry, feelings of being overwhelmed, anxiety, etc. But it can be good, too. Stress is responsible for our “flight-or-fight” response which can literally save our lives. It also occurs during exercise which allows are bodies to get stronger and, ironically, help reduce negative stress. Further, in small amounts, it can help you meet deadlines and push you to meet goals. Researchers even believe that small amounts can actually improve how your body functions, boost your immune system, etc.
Stress and Your Body, Health, and Emotions
Stress can be divided into 3 main categories. Acute, episodic, and chronic. Acute stress is most common. It is short-term stress that results from specific events, pressures, or demands that have occurred recently. Things like an upcoming deadline, a short illness, or anxiety when performing a task can all cause acute stress.
Episodic stress is basically acute stress that occurs frequently. Someone who is consistently busy or disorganized or someone who worries constantly can suffer from episodic stress.
Finally, chronic stress is the most detrimental. This type occurs when a person is under a stressful situation for long periods of time such as battling a long-term illness like cancer or going to war. It can often cause severe physical and emotional problems.
While stress can be good and is a key component of survival, too much, like chronic stress, can have serious consequences. When long-term, your immune system can actually weaken and people who battle long-term stress can find themselves also battling high blood pressure, depression, fatigue, heart disease, etc. We must find ways to manage and reduce long-term and recurring stress.
1. Know the signs.
Signs and symptoms of stress include (amongst others):
- Inability to concentrate
- Flare-ups from autoimmune diseases
- Trouble falling asleep/staying awake
- Appetite changes
- Anger, anxiety, depression, etc.
- Low energy
- Upset stomach
- Chest pain and/or rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and/or infections
2. Avoid or find ways to manage things you know cause major stress.
If certain activities tend to get the best of you find ways to avoid them or manage them.
For example, I know that crowds cause me great anxiety and stress. I, therefore, try to avoid them or I try to prepare ahead of time (mostly mentally) for them to keep myself from getting too stressed out. If the activity is unavoidable, like a speech or presentation you must give, sometimes all it takes is extra practice and preparation to keep your stress level lower.
3. Exercise, exercise, exercise.
I know we are all probably really tired of being told to exercise but it really can’t be said enough. There are so many benefits to exercise besides weight management and stress reduction/elimination is a big one. The times I have actually taken the time to go for a walk or head to the gym when I am stressed have been some of the best. The stress practically disappears. Just do it. Your body and mind will thank you.
4. Find ways to relax.
Take a yoga class, learn some breathing techniques, soak in a warm bath with a little lavender oilsprinkled in it or a nice detox soak. I use Arbonne’s Rescue and Renew Detox Soak. Find something you enjoy that relaxes you and find time here and there to do it. Even if it’s just 10 minutes of stretching or reading a good book, it will do wonders to improve your mood and lower your stress.
5. Get organized.
Some of our most stressful moments stem from a lack of organization and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Plan ahead and prepare as much as possible. Follow my nightly plan, 7 Things You Can Do Nightly to Make Your Mornings Easier, or come up with one of your own to help create stress-free mornings. If you have a presentation to give, homework to be done, or some other project, go ahead and make a plan. Buy what you need now, decide how much you’re going to do each day, put aside time to practice or work on it, etc.
And as a side note, don’t stretch yourself too thin. Know your limits and when to say no to new projects or requests.
6. Get help.
If you really feel that the stress is overwhelming, and you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out for some. Find friends or family to talk to and see if they can help you through the rough patches or find a counselor or therapist to speak with. It never hurts to speak with someone and get all your anxiety and worry off your mind. Whatever you do, don’t self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, etc. These things can cause more harm than good and make things worse.
Fortunately, while I had stressful moments with my husband being out of town, I found some time here and there to relax a little with a warm bath, a cup of coffee and a good book, etc. And I had some great help in form of some friends and family that spent a day or two with Little Peachick so I could get a few things done and that made all the difference.