We all feel stress at one time or another — at work, at home, and on the road. It’s hard not get overwhelmed once and a while. Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. A small amount of stress can be good, motivating you to perform well. But stress that goes on for more than a few weeks can affect your health.
Negative stress can keep you from feeling and performing your best — mentally, physically and emotionally. But no one’s life is completely stress-free. It’s important to know how to identify the symptoms of too much stress as well as how to manage the stress in your life.
Symptoms of Stress
Symptoms of stress can take many forms:
- Physical complaints, such as tension headaches, back pain, upset stomach, insomnia, nervousness and shaking, or chest pains and rapid heartbeat.
- Emotional symptoms, including agitation, irritability, edginess, feeling overwhelmed, low self-esteem, depression and avoiding others.
- Cognitive symptoms, such as constant worrying, racing thoughts, forgetfulness and disorganization, inability to focus, poor judgement, being pessimistic.
- Behavioral symptoms, including changes in appetite, procrastinating, increased use of alcohol, drug or cigarettes, exhibiting nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting, or pacing.
Approaches to stress management include:
- Learning skills such as problem-solving, prioritization and time management.
- Enhancing your ability to cope with adversity. This might involve improving your emotional flexibility, increasing your sense of control, finding greater meaning in life and cultivating optimism.
- Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, tai chi, exercise and prayer.
- Improving your personal relationships.
Stress Management Treatments at the Yang Institute
- Acupuncture. Insertion of extremely thin needles through your skin at strategic points in your body might help boost your body’s natural painkillers and increase blood flow.
- Counseling. Discussing life and health-related stresses with a medical professional can help you develop coping skills for challenging situations.
- Deep breathing. Breathing from a muscle under your rib cage (diaphragm) can establish a pattern of slower, deeper and more-efficient breathing.
- Guided imagery (visualization). Picturing calming mental images of relaxing places and situations can help you cope with negative emotions, feelings or circumstances.
- Massage therapy. A trained and certified medical professional manipulates the soft tissues of your body — muscle, connective tissue, tendons, ligaments and skin — using varying degrees of pressure and movement.
- Meditation. Developing intentional focus — minimizing random thoughts about the past or future — can help with relaxation and stress reduction.
- Mindfulness exercises. This form of meditation teaches you to be intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Tensing and relaxing the muscle groups throughout your body can help to calm anxious feelings.
- Resilience training. Learning to be more intentional about your perceptions can decrease negative thoughts and help you develop resilience — the ability to recover quickly after stress.
- Yoga. Various types of mind-body practices that combine a series of precise postures with controlled breathing can help relax your mind as well as increase strength and flexibility.