MindfulnessJun 4, 2018
Baby Blues vs Postnatal DepressionJul 2, 2018
Taking care of your stress
Stress is, unfortunately, part of our daily lives. We experience short-term stress in multiple environments and it usually leaves a person feeling a little upset or anxious. However, the side effects don’t leave a long lasting impact on your mind or body.
Long-term stress, on the other hand, is much more detrimental to your mental and physical state. Dealing with stress over long periods can lead to several undesirable symptoms.
When long-term stress is not effectively managed, it can significantly decrease your quality of life. Some of these symptoms include sleeplessness, loss of appetite, chronic pain (headaches, back pain), compromised immune system, inability to focus, impaired memory, constant anxiety, unpredictable moods, and fatigue.
Constant stress gradually breaks a person down, until eventually rendering them incapable of managing their stress healthily. It’s, therefore, easy to see how this kind of ongoing stress could link to the development of more serious mental health problems, like depression and anxiety disorder.Think about it:
when you’re always stressed out, you lose sleep. The lack of sleep can result in a decline in your mood and may cause fluctuations of irritability. If it lasts for more than a few days, you’ll find yourself losing focus, forgetting important things, and having more and more mood swings. These shifts increase your feelings of stress, and symptoms of anxiety start to become visible. Tension headaches or back pain is often part of the picture. You overeat or eat too little, because of your over-anxious mind.
You are so weighed down that you can’t be bothered to take care of yourself. Even getting out of bed requires effort. When this happens, healthy ways of coping go out of the window, and now things like alcohol and other substances seem like excellent ways to cope with your stress. Suppose your mood is always dragging you down, and your negative thoughts start to spiral out of control.
In that case, it can lead to significant depression. Which is a severe mental health problem that is left untreated can be debilitating. In these cases, identifying stress and using healthy coping mechanisms right from the start can prevent depression and anxiety disorder from developing.
Throughout the year, many of us have been exposed to more stress than our bodies can manage. Now more than ever, we need to find new ways of coping, because what once was – is no more. Stress management is not a one-size-fits-all; it varies from person to person. That’s why it’s crucial to try out different coping techniques to find one that suits you. The following stress management tips might work for you.
Stress tip 1: Identify the source of your stress.
Identifying your sources of stress isn’t as straight forward as it seems. It might be easy to identify significant stressors such as financial strain or going through a divorce. However, pinpointing sources of chronic stress will be much more complicated. To give you an example of this we can look at your working environment.
Sure, you’re aware of closing deadlines which cause significant stress. Although when we consider thoughts and behaviour, one might argue that it is your procrastination that sits behind the stress, not the workload or job demands.
Identifying these small traits about yourself will give you an in-depth look to determine the cause of stress:
Stress tip 2: Practise the four A’s of stress management.
Avoid people or situations that stress you out. If something you’re aware of continually causes you to stress, it’s time to cut it loose.
Take control of your environment and alter it according to your needs. If constant traffic bugs you, take the route less travelled. If the news is making you anxious turn off the TV. Remember that you and you alone are in control.
The absolute truth is you can adapt to stressful situations and regain control. It is in your human nature to overcome and adapt. It is what keeps us alive and going. The same is true for everyday stress. Taking back control starts with changing your expectations and your attitude.
Last but not least. Accept the things you can’t change. Some sources of stress are unavoidable; therefore, learning to accept what you can or can’t change is super beneficial when it comes to stress management. It may not be easy at first, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
Stress tip 3: Get Moving and get active
When you’re feeling down in the dumps, the last thing you want to do is physical exercise. But what we fail to realize is that physical activity is a massive benefit in relieving stress. You don’t need to exercise like a professional athlete, even just 15 minutes of exercise a day will already help.
Although, below are some other activities you can work into your daily routine:
- Put on some music and dance a little
- Take your dog(s) for a walk
- Cycle around the block if you can
- Whenever you can, use the stairs instead of the elevator
- If you can, swim a few laps in the swimming pool
- Get yourself a training partner and hold each other accountable for the exercise
Stress tip 4: Find an authentic connection with others, it’s essential
There’s nothing more calming than spending quality time with friends or loved ones. Make the time and set up a coffee date. Face to face connection triggers several hormones that counteract the body’s natural flight or fight response. Human connection is nature’s natural stress reliever. So make it a point to connect regularly with those whose company you enjoy.
Stress tip 5: Make time for yourself and fun activities
Other than taking a proactive approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress by making time for yourself. It is easy to get caught up in the fast-paced environment we live in, so don’t forget to take care of yourself. If you regularly make time for yourself, you’ll be able to deal with life’s stressors, more effectively. Find a hobby or do something you can enjoy every day, it’s up to you to find your happy place.
Mindfulness techniques to naturally lower symptoms of stress
Practising these mindfulness techniques frequently will give you the power to take back control over stress. Mindfulness leads to lower stress, blood pressure and strengthens your immune system. Below is a shortlist of three mindfulness techniques you can engage with to lower your daily stress and cope better in stressful environments, be it at work or home.
1. Focus mindfulness
Often described as the “eyes on the road” technique because focus mindfulness involves a singular focus on one experience. It is the process of looking inwards to observe your thoughts. To keep your focus, we suggest doing focus mindfulness with breathing techniques to keep you grounded.
2. Body scan
Body scan mindfulness is where you gradually focus your attention on one body part at a time—noticing physical sensations without overthinking. You can do this sitting down or laying down, as long as you’re comfortable. We suggest placing your focus on your feet and working your way up to your head, while you take in deep breaths and relax.
3. Mindfulness eating
This technique involves eating slower while you pay attention to the item you’re eating. You can focus on the smell, the texture, the taste and the sensation of holding it. Before you know it, your stress fades away as you shift your focus away from the stress trigger to the item you chose to eat.
7 components of a healthy mental state
By now most of us are aware that we should do everything we can to preserve our healthy mental state. Although some people rarely take the time to foster good routines and habits that support a positive state of mind. Here are seven components of a healthy mental state which will assist you on your journey to wellness.
1: In-person therapy
Often we need an objective person to decompress from life’s stressors, that’s why the demand for in-person therapy has increased by so much in the recent two years. This method of therapy allows the objective therapist to see and recognise patterns that need further evaluation or guide us with techniques for self-care.
Developing a solid support system in your community of friendships or family is also a crucial part of your journey to wellness. By surrounding yourself with like-minded people and having positive engagements with them, you will notice a decrease in your anxiety levels and generally you will be much happier.
3: Physical health
The mind and body is intricately connected and the health of the one, affects the other. If you don’t look after your body, your mind will soon follow suit. Eating well, getting enough exercise and sleep is not an option but a necessity. Physical activities will ensure you sleep well at night and it also releases healthy endorphins which balances your brain chemicals and releases the negative chemical build-up.
4: Intellectual health
This ties into point 3 above. Exercising your mind forms a valuable part of a healthy mental state of mind. Committing yourself to lifelong learning and learning new life skills will not only open up doors for you but will improve your mental health in general.
Your environment can have a significant impact on your mental health. Those who find themselves in high stress environments constantly need to do everything they can to remove the stressful aspects which cause the most stress to your life. Lowering your stress in these environments can improve your cognitive function tremendously.
6: Set boundaries
You can safeguard your mental health by learning when to say no, and still take care of life’s obligations. Establishing boundaries for yourself is a great way to prevent throwing you off track. If you don’t want to surround yourself with certain people or certain environments, you should stick to your intuitive feeling and look out for yourself first.
7: Practise more self-care
As the pandemic continues, people are practising self-care more often than not. Take some time to determine what matters most to you in this point of time and focus on nurturing yourself when you get the chance. A structured self-care routine is very beneficial to preserving a healthy mental state.
Stress in South Africa
Studies have shown that aside from money, work is the most significant cause of stress in South Africa. Some could say that work and money-related stress are inextricably linked since they both significantly affect a person’s quality of life. Having no job and therefore, no money is one way this work-finance stress can arise.
Then some have work and are under a lot of pressure to perform in stressful environments, combined with money issues. In many cases, it’s a lose-lose situation if you are not careful about effective stress-management.
About 10% of working professionals say that they have to take time off work due to stress-related issues. An even higher percentage – almost 30% – say they don’t feel they are effectively managing their stress. Knowing the far-reaching impact of stress on mental health, how it very often lies at the root of depression, these numbers are concerning.
Fortunately, with healthy stress management, it’s possible to avoid major depressive episodes. Identifying a stressful situation early on will allow you to act before it gets out of control. Introduce a balanced diet and physical activity to give your body and mind the tools they require to help you deal with stress. Studies in the field underscore the positive relationship between exercise and good mental health because it’s a natural and healthy way to eliminate stress.
At ZwavelStream Clinic, we treat the acute symptoms of stress and depression with several treatment options available. We strive to support our patients with the tools they need to help them cope with their condition moving forward. There is no reason to burn yourself out from stress. Please send us a message or give us a call to find out how we can help you take back control.