Toxic stress and how to keep it from ruling your life
Everyone experiences stress and sometimes toxic stress. It is an unavoidable part of day-to-day life. However, we have adopted an unhealthy relationship with stress; believing that stress is the embodiment of hard work and motivation. We have also come to believe that stress is something we simply need to deal with because it will always be present. When we welcome overwhelming stress into our lives we allow our health, wellness, and happiness to deteriorate.
Stress, and the accompanying anxiety, is toxic. Every aspect of your life can and will be affected by it, but sometimes the signs can be dismissed, confused for something else, or bubbling beneath the surface for a long period of time. It is important to listen to your body and watch for the physical signs of being over-stressed: headaches, stomach aches, body pain, increase in illness, irritability, emotional instability, sleeplessness/restlessness, and gastrointestinal issues. The side effects of stress can greatly vary from person to person, but the long-term consequences are the same.
Toxic stress can begin ruling every aspect of your life. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it can cause high blood pressure, chest pain, heart palpitations, hair loss, skin rashes, insomnia, and depression. On a more personal level, it can make it more difficult to have fulfilling relationships, find joy in certain activities, communicate with others, or concentrate at work and/or home. When your body is in overdrive, it can become incredibly difficult to fulfill your roles in both your personal and professional lives
You can rest assured that you are not alone, and many have found beneficial ways to keep toxic stress at bay. Just as stress presents differently in everyone, the strategies to lessen its power vary from person to person. It is of the utmost importance to have the support of your loved ones, be patient with yourself, and continue to test out stress management strategies until you find one that fits your needs (and changing strategies as you outgrow them).
Use this list to identify strategies that speak to you and that will be easy to implement. As stress-relief self-care becomes a regular part of your routine, it will be easier to try methods that you are less familiar with.
- Journaling about your day
- Writing down your thoughts and worries
- Making a to-do list in
theevening for the following day
- Meditation and/or breathing exercises
- Taking a walk
- Exercising (even for just 5-10 minutes)
- Talking with a friend on the phone
- Taking a bath
- Scheduling in non-negotiable “me time”
- Begin saying “no” to activities or requests that will lead to overwhelming…and be OK with it
If your stress continues to rise, is not alleviated with stress-relieving techniques, or you are using drugs or alcohol to cope, it is important to reach out to your health care provider to discuss additional options.
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