Stress can come from all different sources, including relationships, family, jobs, and finances. It can be short-lived and temporary, like a big project at work, or ongoing, such as consistent family drama or marital issues.
For many individuals, this stress can pose a significant threat to their mental health and well-being. A study by the Mental Health Foundation found that 74 percent of adults feel “unable to cope” with stress, with some experiencing suicidal thoughts (35 percent) and engaging in self-harm (16 percent).
No matter what the source of your stress, it’s important to find healthy ways to deal with it. Left unchecked, stress can have dire consequences on not only your mental and emotional health, but your physical health, too: The American Psychological Association says prolonged stress can lead to chronic pain and muscle tension, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as a host of other respiratory, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous system, and reproductive problems.
Dealing With Stress In Your Everyday Life
There are a number of ways to cope with stress, and not all of them are healthy. Some people turn to overeating, binge drinking, drug use, and even self-harm as a way of dealing with the external stressors in their lives, but it’s wise to take a step back and focus on healthy, positive habits.
Here are a few simple things you can do to manage your stress levels:
Eat a healthy diet. Stress increases cortisol levels, which makes you crave unhealthy foods that are high in fat, sugar, and sodium. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and be sure to drink plenty of water. Getting the proper nutrition is important for maintaining your physical health, which is already at risk when you’re overly stressed.
Make time for exercise. Physical activity increases your level of endorphins, the chemical in your brain associated with positive feelings – and it’s been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress. Get moving and stick to a regular exercise routine to reap the maximum benefits. Beginners may first want to try a 3 day workout split that allows for plenty of rest between workouts.
Get enough sleep. Not everyone needs a full eight hours of sleep per night, but most people simply don’t get enough of it. Lack of sleep impacts memory, judgment, and mood, and studies have shown that many adults feel more stressed when they don’t get enough sleep. It’s a vicious cycle, though: Too much stress can also prevent you from sleeping well, so try to establish a calming nighttime ritual to help you clear your mind before bed.
Talk things out with someone. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself when you’re stressed is get someone else’s perspective on the matter. Talk to someone you trust – a partner, a family member, a friend, etc. – and ask them to listen and provide insights. These individuals may help you see your situation in a different light, and find a way of alleviating the mental and emotional burden.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the people in your life about your stress – or if you want a neutral, objective opinion in addition to theirs – you should seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. Psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors are trained to handle whatever it is you’re going through and can help put you on the road to a healthier, less stressed life.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.