Stress can be incredibly hard on your mind and your body. Too much stress and anxiety can be hard on your gut and your ability to focus. Finally, excess anxiety and stress can lead to depression, which can be fatal.
Fight or Flight
When your mind is under a great deal of stress and pressure, you may find that your body moves into a state of agitation that's also called fight or flight. Once you're in fight or flight, you lose a lot of flexibility in your thinking.
For example, those in chronic fight or flight mode may be unable to discuss a small disagreement without having a huge blowout. Simple frustrations can turn into epic battles when you constantly feel pressured and cornered, making it very hard to maintain loving connections with those you live with.
Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. While the direct connection between stress and heart damage is still being researched, activities for stress management can have a huge impact on your heart health.
For example, some people relax with an adult beverage. Others relax with a cigarette. Even if these soothe your soul, they're very hard on your heart. Others relax with a workout and meditation, which are good both for your spirit and your heart. Trying to give up habits including smoking and drinking to excess when you're already under stress can be nearly crippling.
Talking Can Help
Even if you're still sheltering in place, looking for options for stress counselling online can lower your anxiety level and give you some control of your situation. This form of structured therapy may be all you need to get a better grasp of your situation.
Another option is to look for online support groups that can help you feel less isolated. Knowing that you're not alone in any challenge can give you a sense of hope and a chance to find a little humor in your situation.
Shutting Down the Hamster Wheel
Many of us get into a cycle of thoughts and worries that just won't shut down. For example, you may be concerned about finances. Being worried about finances now may have you berating yourself for purchases you made in the past. Once you're into this cycle of self-abuse and blame
- you have no path but down
- you have no way to find a way forward
- you lose confidence in your ability to manage your life
There are many ways to stop the cycle of anxious thoughts that's getting in the way of building a healthy future. You can carefully fact-check the script that's running through your mind.
You can meditate or pray. A simple bedtime prayer routine done right before you sleep is remarkably effective in helping you to drop off to sleep in the first place and return to sleep should you wake up. Even if you don't believe in a higher power, hold the faces of your loved ones in your mind. Smile and wish them a mental "good night" as you stretch out to rest. If you wake in the middle of the night, start looking at those beloved faces again in your mind. Remind yourself that you've already taken care of that, and go back to sleep.
Habits to Reduce Stress
If you find stressful thoughts building up in your mind during your waking hours, get up and do ten push-ups against the wall. Focus on your form and breathing. This healthy choice, triggered by an unhealthy thought process, will break the cycle of stressful thoughts and refocus your mind in a better direction.
Another option is simply to get out and go for a walk. Walking is habitual behavior; you learned it long ago and can do it without thinking about it. This habitual behavior will free up your creative mind to help you tackle the next challenge you need to get on top of.
Stress is a fact of life. Making healthy choices to help you get on top of your stress is a decision that you need to make each day. Create a list of stress-busting habits, from texting a friend to connecting with your support group or counselor when you feel stress piling up.
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