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Feeling Overwhelmed? Discover Effective Stress Management Techniques

Unless you’re a Shaolin monk who has mastered the art of mindfulness, you’re exposed to a lot of stress that comes as part of living in a modern society. Most of us work at fast-paced organisations, which – paired with what’s happening in the world – can create a lot of anxiety. 

And while we can’t control most of the events, we can control how we react to them. In order to maintain our well-being, it’s necessary to know how to manage stress effectively. We share a few proven strategies in this piece.

Why is it important to manage stress? 

Stress is our body’s biological response to challenging events. It’s part of the “fight or flight” package, i.e., when our organism prepares itself to either confront a threat or run away. Our adrenal glands start producing vast amounts of cortisol to heighten our alertness and mobilise physical energy. It’s activated not only when we’re in physical danger, but also when we’re facing difficult circumstances, including sudden disruptions to our day-to-day lives.

One of the most common stressors in the modern world is change. It can entail passing ‘difficulties’ like starting a new job and proving yourself during the trial period, or a long-term challenge like becoming a parent.


That said, stress can also play a positive role in our lives. If it’s in the right dose, it acts as a motivator. But if there is too much of it, or we experience it constantly, it can have serious health consequences. Chronic stress can lead to migraines, low concentration, irritation, insomnia, and even depression. Studies show that there is a relationship between prolonged stress and life-threatening health problems like diabetes and heart disease. How so? 

Sometimes, when we’re under stress we turn to coping strategies, which aren’t necessarily good for our well-being, like alcohol, drugs, bad diet, cigarettes, or high-risk behaviours. That’s why it’s vital to keep stress under control and seek help if we cannot manage it on our own.


Strategies for managing stress  

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Here are a few strategies you can turn to whenever you experience symptoms of stress. 

Exercise regularly 

Each one of us has at least one friend who has to “sweat it out” whenever something stressful occurs in their life, and it’s the right approach. Movement is one of the best ways to tackle acute stress – studies confirm that it might reduce stress levels and improve our mood. 

In fact, there was a research done that involved 185 university students. For 6 weeks they took part in aerobic exercises twice a week. Their stress levels have gone down and their mental well-being has improved. This is because when we exercise, we produce endorphins – the happiness hormone. Plus, often we get so tired from working out that we might even forget what irritated us in the first place. 

Try out team sports

What might be an even better stress alleviator than regular exercise? Engaging in sports as part of a team or community! While working out as part of a group, you get the most out of two worlds – staying physically active and surrounding yourself with familiar faces. These people can eventually become a tight community that will motivate you to stay on track with your fitness journey.

Having a group of like-minded individuals can be critical to building stress resilience. Multiple studies say that it can boost our oxytocin levels, which is one of the strongest mechanisms for battling negative emotions. 

This explains why people are so drawn to sports like CrossFit, where a community you can celebrate your victories with is as strong an exercise motivator as the physical activity itself.

Restore a sense of internal balance

This can mean various things, depending on who we are and what the root causes of our stress are. For one person, it could be about setting healthy boundaries between our professional and private lives. For others, it might be about making better dietary choices or minimising screen time in favour of exercise and getting some fresh air.

That said, there are a couple of universal practices you can engage in to restore a sense of control and reduce symptoms of stress. These are:


  • Daily meditation, which teaches your mind to ‘detach’ from stressors and focus on the ‘here and now’ through resting in silence and concentrating on your breath. If you’ve never meditated before, then it might be a good idea to learn how to meditate with an app or through guided meditations on YouTube. Once you get the knack of it, you can engage in a self-paced practice. If it’s hard for you to pick up new habits, then start off with the shortest sessions. There are plenty of 2-3 minute long meditations online.
  • Yoga, which incorporates the benefits of meditation and exercise. There are so many different types of yoga – from energetic classes like Vinyasa Flow, which aims to boost your heartrate, to low-impact sessions like Yin Yoga. As summed up by Harvard Medical School, the benefits of engaging in yoga extend “far beyond the mat”. It can help you become more self-aware and reduce your acute stress reactions.

Unplugging from social media/digital world

For most of us, it’s hard to imagine a life without smartphones and the Internet. While they can be very helpful if used in moderation, they might cause stress and anxiety if used too often. A study done in 2021 demonstrates that prolonged smartphone usage can lead to increased stress and contribute to the development of mental health issues, including anxiety disorder. Too much screen time negatively impacts our ability to sleep as our brains remain constantly active. 

Like it wasn’t bad enough already, various studies have pointed out that there is a connection between heavy social media scrolling and a higher risk of acute stress, depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. That’s why it’s so important to take regular breaks from our phones and social media. You can check how much time you spend on social media apps, and even turn to apps that will stop you from logging in at certain times. We’ve used them personally, and they’ve helped! 

Reconnect with friends & family

Sometimes when we feel overwhelmed, stressed, or unhappy, we tend to isolate ourselves. We don’t want to flood other people with our problems or share the negative energy. But it’s not a good approach – we’re social creatures. And it’s actually scientifically proven that spending time with people who we like has positive health effects. It helps us control our blood sugar, decreases mortality from health conditions, reduces depression symptoms, and many others.

So whenever you feel down, instead of locking yourself up in your room, go spend time with your friends and family and you will feel better in no time!

Get some fresh air

Do you know what else can do wonders for reducing acute stress? Getting some fresh air! That, plus the smell of flowers and plants, can minimize stress and anxiety. Oxygen is associated with boosting serotonin in our bodies, which makes us feel happier and more relaxed. 

Plants like lavender and jasmine, not only smell heavenly, but they also help fight insomnia and decrease stress and anxiety. So, if you don’t know what to do on a sunny afternoon, visit a garden nearby, go to a forest, or mow your parents’ lawn – your mood will get better instantly. 

Journaling  

It’s hard to control stress when your mind is racing, or when you’re feeling stuck between contradictory emotions. Writing down your thoughts can help you put everything into perspective, i.e., create a cause-and-effect narrative, and find fitting solutions.

But it’s about more than problem-solving – turning your thoughts and emotions into words has a healing effect itself. A study published by Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm proves that writing about stressful events, even for 15-20 minutes in 3-5 sessions, helps restore physical and psychological well-being. They recommend this not only as part of psychotherapeutic treatments, but also as a way for the general population to handle challenging, short-term stress.

Eat healthy

Remember how we’ve mentioned the detrimental effect of elevated cortisol levels? Certain foods can trigger its release into the bloodstream, which can be catastrophic when you’re already struggling with stress. 

Some meals and ingredients you should minimise or exclude when feeling overwhelmed include sugar, processed animal derivatives, alcohol, and coffee. Not only are these foods low in microelements but they’ve also been proven to boost cortisol secretion.

Luckily, some foods can work in your favour and actually trigger positive thoughts. These are products that are rich in tryptophan, including green tea, fermented foods like kimchi and yoghurt, and – best of all – dark chocolate. As you can see, these are some enjoyable tastes to indulge yourself in.


Learning how to spot and manage symptoms of stress

Life is pretty unpredictable, and some of its surprises can be less than enjoyable. It can be particularly hard to handle stress if you’re super organised or a perfectionist. While a healthy amount of stress is good as it pushes us to act, chronic stress can be super debilitating and lead to physical illness and anxiety disorder. 

Since chronic stress is a plague in today’s world, you need to learn how to tackle it effectively. Some of the things that can help include prioritising physical activity, healthy eating, and surrounding yourself with good-hearted people.


By incorporating the practices we mentioned in this post, you’ll be much more in control next time you run into a problematic situation.


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