How Stress Affects Our Well-being
Stress is our body’s natural response to pressure. It triggers the release of stress hormones, prompting a fight or flight reaction and activating our immune system. It is beneficial in small doses as it is our body's way of telling us to remove ourselves from a bad situation or to slow down.
Ordinarily, our stress hormone levels return to normal shortly after the stressful event subsides, with no lasting impact. However, when stress becomes too much, it takes its toll on our well-being.
Stress affects people around the world. In addition to the constant connectivity of the digital age and an "always-on" culture, the fast-paced and demanding nature of modern society, the COVID-19 pandemic, and global issues such as climate change, political unrest, and social inequalities have contributed to even more stress for many people.
The Effects of Stress on Your Health
It is important to acknowledge that while stress is a common experience, its impact can vary from person to person. The symptoms we experience, when stressed, can manifest in how we think and feel. Stress can present itself physically and emotionally through a number of different symptoms:
Cognitive symptoms such as difficulty concentrating and negative thinking.
Emotional symptoms such as feeling sad and having low self-confidence.
Physical symptoms such as headaches and skin rashes.
Behavioural symptoms such as changes in eating habits and social withdrawal.
5 Ways to Fight Stress and Improve Your Well-being
We need to prioritize mental health, seek support when needed, and promote open conversations about stress to foster a supportive and resilient society in the face of these challenges.
Here are five ways to help you manage your day-to-day stress.
Practice Self Care
Self-care helps with stress management as it provides a break from stress, and can offer time alone or with loved ones that lift you up. It takes many different forms and can encompass various practices such as resting, exercising, eating well, getting adequate sleep, cold plunging, or focusing on a skincare routine.
Here are some of the self-care practices that I use when I need a break from the day-to-day stresses of running a business in Vancouver:
1. Read a book, currently reading: The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel A. van der Kolk, and forever rereading The River Of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks.
2. Relax by writing poetry with rosemary essential oil in my Vitruvi Diffuser.
3. Take my mind off of work by playing chess with my son.
4. Baking and cooking have become therapeutic for me to wind and slow down.
5. I spend time each day on my skincare routine using products that make me feel good about my skin and about my impact on the environment.
Use Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques are tools that you can use to reduce stress such as meditation, breath work, yoga, or guided imagery. In addition to helping you relax, these tools are also known to regulate stress by reducing muscle tension, regulating emotions, and improving cognitive function.
There are incredible relaxation techniques that we can take part in every day such as:
1. Dedicate 5-10 minutes upon rising to sitting alone and focusing on our breaths.
2. Join a yin yoga class at home, at YYoga in Vancouver, or at a yoga studio in your city.
3. Use The Open app, which offers hundreds of meditation, breathwork, yoga, and sound classes to take part in at home.
Practicing gratitude through journaling, meditation, or conversation can help to reduce stress as it enhances positive emotions, shifts your mental focus, alters negative thought patterns, and helps you cope with adversity.
Practicing gratitude can be done anywhere. Here are a few ways to incorporate it into your schedule:
1. Bring a journal with you to write about anything (no matter how small) you are grateful for during the day.
2. Add an extra two minutes to your breathwork practice to do a gratitude meditation.
3.Choose a friend or family member to phone each day and share what you are grateful for.
Build Connection and Community
Building connections and a sense of community are huge in the fight against stress. Our community of friends or family provides us with emotional support and offers us other perspectives and guidance, social connection, and access to shared resources. Friends and family are our lifelines to health and well-being - we’re all in this together.
Seek Support When Needed
One of the most important ways to fight against the toll stress has on our mental health is to seek emotional support. A professional can share their perspective and assist you in finding tools, or, most importantly, making life adjustments to reduce your stress.
There are many resources available to help you deal with overwhelming stress such as the Crisis Center BC, HealthLink BC, and Anxiety Canada.