- Posted by Jon Harju
- On April 24, 2019
It’s easy to get caught in a vicious stress circle. We pour a coffee to cope with a busy schedule, pack in high-intensity exercise activities to ‘burn’ off stress, and when our brain needs a break from work, we reach for our phones and log on to social media to scroll through endless content that asks us to react more. Unknowingly going from one buzz to another, we’re actually adding more stimulation to our load and (drumroll, please)… more stress.
Stress is a reaction to those daily obstacles of change or challenge we are required to leap over. There is no doubt that the stressful dives over many life hurdles have ever left us feeling good. Through a positive lens, stress can be helpful. It makes you alert and gives you the energy to get things done. However, if it becomes chronic or long-term, then stress can lead to severe physical and mental health problems. Managing our stress is something that cannot be taken for granted. The question is: do women react differently to stress than men?
Researchers have discovered that the difference between men and women in terms of stress levels is due to women experiencing more onsets of “distress episodes.” Since women’s stress responses are regularly triggered, women do not hold onto their stress more; they just experience many more episodes of being stressed than men.
I believe any busy woman spinning the plates in her life (work, raising children, supporting ageing parents, relationships, managing a home, managing a busy schedule) would be frantically nodding her head to this, as she swoops in to stop a plate from falling.
When we’re looking through the lens of women’s mental health, it is reported that
- Women who are stressed are more likely than stressed men to experience depression and anxiety.¹
- Women are more likely than men to report symptoms of stress, including headaches and upset stomach.
- Women are also more likely to have mental health conditions that are made worse by stress, such as depression or anxiety.²
Stress and depression
Many of us experience ups and downs in everyday life. While some periods of “feeling fed up” are a part of life, sometimes people can fall into a slump of depressive feelings that persist and begin to interfere with their ability to accomplish daily activities — such as holding a job and enjoying successful happy relationships.
“The byproducts of our stress hormones actually act as sedatives (the chemical substances which cause us to become calm or fatigued). When such hormone byproducts occur in large amounts (which will happen under conditions of chronic stress), they create a sustained feeling of low energy or depression”.³
This coupled with habitual albeit negative patterns of thought can increase the likelihood that a person will experience stress as negative therefore increasing the possibility that a person will become depressed.
What can we do to break the ‘stress cycle’ and ensure strong mental health?
There are plenty of different strategies that can help reduce the stress you feel. The best way to eliminate stress is to make sure you have a selection of tools and knowledge at the ready to help you when you need it most.
5 Essential Strategies To Help Master Your Daily Stress In Life
1) Bag the basics
Take care of your body to create a solid stress-busting foundation. Good sleep is simply non-negotiable — along with reducing screen time. Switch your thinking. Instead of treating yourself to a ‘you deserve this’ chocolate croissant and latte, go for a “your body deserves it” healthy smoothie and nutrient-dense chia pudding. On that note, if you’re stressed, then its time to give up reaching for caffeine that intensifies the stress running through your veins. Aim for a soothing herbal tea or water. Caffeine actually hikes up your stress levels even more — meaning you’re just feeding into that stress cycle with the double espresso. Pick your exercise wisely and own it. Go for a run while listening to some energetic and inspiring tunes if that is what you need. Maybe a glorious stretch and some calming yoga are what your muscles are crying out for. Be active and be kind to yourself. Nail this foundation formula, then just rinse and repeat! When we are physically and mentally healthy, we can make better choices.
2) Reach out for help
Its ok to not do it all. Maybe your partner can put the kids to bed while you snuggle up in your own bed and get a restorative early night sleep. Perhaps your teen can walk the dog so you can take 5 minutes to process that manic day of meetings. Book a meal plan service for a few nights a week so you don’t have to play that dreaded game of buying groceries after work, wandering the store isles asking yourself, “what can I make for dinner tonight”? It’s good to take a break, clear your plate of tasks and share the to-do list. Connect with a therapist to learn some life-long skills in managing stress and your emotions. After all, your stress levels and mental health are counting on it.
3) Establish non-negotiable stress-relieving habits
Carve out time in your schedule to meet up with friends and laugh until your stomach aches. Do one thing daily for yourself. Set aside time to read. Commit to a daily journal where you identify and jot down three things you are grateful for that day. Many of us forget to appreciate the things we have and the things that others do for us. Recognize your accomplishments, not only your failures. Take the time to enjoy all the good that surrounds you and be appreciative for what you have every day. Try your hand at meditation. This might seem like a tip you hear often — and ironically the most difficult to achieve — but meditation is effective! Studies have repeatedly found that mindfulness meditation can decrease anxiety and stress levels. A regular commitment of just ten minutes a day can be enough to make a difference. Guided meditations can be a great introduction, so download a meditation app today and get started.
4) Ditch the negativity
Both from others and yourself. Sometimes we don’t hear the damaging words that roll off our tongues or of those in our circle — but damaging they ARE! Life is challenging enough without listening to the voices (again, either our own negative self-talk or that of someone else). There is always one person in the crowd that talks about how something is not possible or how everyone is doing it the wrong way. These are the people who have a negative attitude. They do nothing to help bring others up. Keep these people at arm’s length to avoid the trap they set. Do not let the stress someone else creates becomes the stress you feel.
5) Grab some peace and prioritize your mental health
From nature and marvel at all the incredible things that display resiliency. When was the last time you strolled through a leafy park or woodland and really looked around at the amazing creations of mother nature? Research has found that spending time in nature can reduce stress levels and protect against its harmful effects. There is something magical and inspiring about looking at a tree that has weathered the trials of adverse conditions. Make time for regular visits to a forest or your favourite park to help ensure you’re not always surrounded by a concrete jungle and tall buildings.
Stress may be an unavoidable part of life, but it is NOT the only part of our life! The more you learn how to control your day-to-day stress, the greater the chance you have to enjoy the day!
Escaping stress is key to great relationships, a healthy body, and life. Take the time to learn how to manage it. Reach out to a mental health professional who can educate and support you in gathering the much-needed tools to manage stress and develop life-long gold medal-winning habits.
When you can remain calm and stay mentally strong, regardless of what may be happening in your world, you’ll discover you are more likely to effectively handle the negative stress that comes your way. When you use all the stress-busting tools stashed away in your back pocket, you will be more focused and better able to handle a crisis — you’ll be more likely to find a solution and in some cases, achieve a better outcome.