6 Ways To Take Care Of Yourself When You're Stressed
Being stressed really sucks. Your heart beats out of your chest, you feel frazzled, and it's impossible to get to sleep at night. There's no doubt that stress really affects the body, and that's why it's important to take care of yourself when under pressure.
Stressful situations, and even just stressful thoughts, cause quite the chemical reaction in the body known as the fight-or-flight response. When this happens, the heart beat increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises, according to WebMD. This is all well and good if a shadowy figure comes up behind you and you need a burst of adrenaline to run away. But more often than not, the stress response is basically misfiring all day, mistaking our stress at work for an actual threat.
Living in a near constant state of fight-or-flight leaves the body totally run down. According to WebMD, stress can cause all sorts of ailments like anxiety, low self-esteem, stomach aches, chest pains, and crankiness. It's amazing any of us are functioning at all when so many of our lives revolve around one stressful thing after the other.
Whether you're just having "one of those days," or your life is a 24/7 mess, it's still important to do things to lessen your worries and relieve your stress. Here are some things you can do to relax and take care of yourself when you're experiencing stressful times.
1. Eat Some Real Food
I get one-track minded when I'm stressed. All I hear is "donuts... donuts..." as my imagination conjures up images of round, sugary goodness. That's because sugar releases endorphins in the brain, so it's only natural to crave delicious treats when you're feeling bad. But it can often get out of control. According to the Mayo Clinic, "... your emotions can become so tied to your eating habits that you automatically reach for a treat whenever you're angry or stressed without thinking about what you're doing. Food ... serves as a distraction. If you're worried about an upcoming event or stewing over a conflict, for instance, you may focus on eating comfort food instead of dealing with the painful situation." There's nothing wrong with eating comfort food, but constantly turning to it in stressful times isn't the best idea. Instead, try to deal with whatever is stressing you out, and if you're hungry, give your body some healthy, real food. You'll feel much better for it in the long run.
2. Get Thee Outside And Commune With Nature
If you're sitting at your desk, gnawing on a pen, and jumping every time the phone rings, then you should probably take a minute and go outside. Take a walk around the block and give yourself time to decompress. As noted by Madeline Vann, MPH, for Everyday Health, "If you are cooped up inside all day, take a few minutes to get outside and see the sun. A little time in the great outdoors can improve your mood and help you relax."
3. Remove Yourself From Said Stressful Situation
If something is going downhill fast, like an argument with your SO, or a conversation at work, it's OK to remove yourself from the situation. Not only will it give you time to cool off, but it's also an act of self preservation. If the conversation needs to happen, you can return to it when you're not feeling so stressed. But if the argument is totally pointless, you don't need to stick around and subject yourself to the drama. If that's the case, take your leave and peace out.
4. Get Into Bed, And Stay There Until You Sleep
When I'm stressed, one of my favorite things to do is lie awake for hours turning over everything in mind. Doesn't that sound like fun? (It really isn't.) Not only is this a horrible waste of time, but it's also cutting into my precious sleep hours, which I should be using to rest and feel better. A good night's sleep can help you deal with stress, according to the CDC. So try to turn off your brain and save whatever's worrying you for the morning.
5. Do Something That Makes You Happy
There's more to life than living in a constant state of overdrive, running from one thing to the next without ever stopping to remember you're a person. If you're doing this to yourself, I highly recommend slowing your roll and scheduling in something fun. As noted by Donna M. White, LMHC, CACP, on PsychCentral.com, "Try to find something that you enjoy and do it every day ... Try to set aside a designated, uninterrupted time and stick to it." Make your fun, relaxation time as important as all that work stuff that's stressing you out.
6. Air Your Problems With Someone Who Cares About You
Keeping your stress all to yourself isn't going to help it go away. Bottle it up if you want to, but you'll feel so much better if you vent to a friend or family member. Sometimes just hearing yourself say aloud what's bothering you can offer new perspective and help you deal with your stress. According to an article on the topic from Northern Illinois University, "You don't need advice. You need to be heard. Sharing our story is how we begin to accept whatever happened and integrate it into our new reality. It may be that you just need to let go of your expectations of how things should be and talking about your feelings and beliefs is the beginning of that process."
Stress is no fun, that's for sure. So make sure you treat yourself well whenever you're going through a particularly rough time.
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