Understanding stress levels and tips on how to reduce it
Short-term, manageable stress levels can help us build resilience to future challenges while motivating and energizing us to take action. Nonetheless, persistent, ongoing, chronic stress can be physically and mentally harmful, affecting our relationships with ourselves and those around us. If you're stressed, whether by your job or something more personal, the first steps to feeling better are identification and reflection.
How to spot when daily "small-dose" stress becomes prolonged and harmful?
Better awareness can help, especially by keeping an eye out for the physical symptoms listed below (WebMD, 2020):
Muscle tension or pain. Shoulders, back, chest, stomach, or head may be affected.
Digestive problems. These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.
Sexual well-being and health. Reduced sex drive, impotence in men or irregular periods in women.
Blood pressure and heart rate. Increased stress hormone production (cortisol and adrenaline), which puts us in fight-or-flight mode, can affect heart rate and blood pressure.
Each physical indicator can become a part of our self-awareness and may indicate when stress starts to interrupt our well-being.
According to Boniwell and Tunariu (2019), stress can also manifest like several "thinking traps," such as:
Jumping to conclusions
Overgeneralizing (when minor setbacks specific to one occurrence are more broadly applied)Casting blame (externally or internally)
Catastrophizing (magnified negatives aspects and diminished positive ones)
Unhelpful emotional reasoning (ex. anxious and overwhelmed feelings because the situation seems overgeneralized or magnified negatively)
In our Mindetic anonymous & aggregated data of thousands of users, we see that destructive responses (as a response to the emotional situation or a trigger) occur around 24% of the time to unpleasant emotions. Psychological resilience - helping to deal with the stresses of daily life more effectively and calmly - is a skill you improve by practicing and is directly related to emotional regulation. How to cultivate it? Practice reflection on your emotions and journal regularly to train your emotional muscles.
How to build psychological resilience and manage stress better?
1. Remind yourself to look at the bigger picture. Reflect on the time you are experiencing: what external or internal causes in this period of your life may affect you to stress out?
2. Be aware of your thoughts on yourself. We tend to blame ourselves sometimes and hold onto our mistakes. Take a piece of paper and write down all your thoughts about the current situation. Reframe your negative self-talk and remind yourself that if you are doing something challenging - that helps you grow.
3. Embrace your emotions. Accepting your emotions, including unpleasant ones, helps to reduce their intensity and understand the need behind them. Also, to manage them and respond proactively rather than reactively, even when intense situations occur. Field studies have documented that an essential component of resilience is emotional flexibility. Cultivate yours through awareness and acceptance.
4. Try practicing mindfulness. Distress tolerance skills are an outgrowth of mindfulness practices, involving the ability to accept oneself and the current situation nonjudgmentally despite the emotional or physical discomfort it may bring.
Our psychologist shares what changes clients notice in their perceived stress levels after starting work on their emotional awareness and cultivating the ability to respond constructively to situations:
“Clients notice that situations that used to bring intense stress, after starting the emotional awareness work, noticeably feel less anxious and tense. Some say that in the past when stressful situations would occur, they wanted to lie down, postpone work, or scroll the phone, and used to overwork or overeat. But after starting to pay attention to their emotions and recognize them better, as well as notice their thoughts and "thinking errors," difficult situations are experienced as less stressful, or they manage the feelings of stress better. Constructive ways to cope with stress became more common and the experience of self-loathing decreased.” - Irma
Want to hear more about how to manage stress better? Reach out to our Mindletic team to get a free consultation now.