by Julia Gomes, M.S., M.A.
Every person experiences stress and reacts to stress differently throughout various points in their lives. Stressors that people may experience includes and are not limited to: day-to-day activities, relationship, work, life changes, medical conditions/illnesses, and even fun or enjoyable events. So why does stress happen? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress occurs when an individual perceives demands as being outside of their ability to cope. It is common for people to experience physical and/or, psychological symptoms in response to stress. Stress can even be beneficial at times because it can give someone that added motivation to complete a task. On the other-hand, chronic stress can have harmful results such as anxiety, insomnia, and muscle pain. Symptoms of stress may consist of: irritability, difficulties concentrating, worrying, head or body aches, eating too much or too little, sleep difficulties, rashes, upset stomach, high blood pressure, and chest pains. Research has shown that stress can worsen physical conditions; stress has shown to even weaken your immune system (McLeod, 2010).
Every person has certain methods that they utilize in order to cope with stress. These methods may consist of: working out, reading a book, spending some time outdoors, and/or any activity that provides a person relief. People might also engage in more unhelpful coping mechanisms such as avoiding tasks, procrastinating, and substance use. Therefore, it is important to find positive and healthy ways to manage stress so that it can reduce the negative consequences of stress and maladaptive coping. However, there are times where our coping methods are no longer effective or working for us. Below are five healthy coping techniques that are suggested by the APA for reducing stress:
- Take a break from the stressor – This may seem difficult but try to let yourself have permission to step away for a couple of minutes to try and help gain new perspective.
- Exercising during a stressful time has shown to reduce stress
- Smile and laugh to relieve tensions
- Reach out to someone – When we share our concerns with others, it reduces our stress. This may explain why psychotherapy has shown to be a helpful form of treatment for individuals who are experiencing a lot of stress.
- Meditate – meditation and mindful prayer helps the mind and body relax and focus. Meditation helps target the physical effects of stress as well.
For more support, coaching, and specific strategies, consider participating in one of our many online groups. Our clinical team facilitates support various groups virtually to help children, teens, young adults, parents, teachers, etc. manage and maintain mental wellness. Click here to view our full calendar and signup for a session!
McLeod, S. A. (2010). Stress, illness and the immune system. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html
American Psychological Association (2018) https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx