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Everyone deals with stress in different ways, and stress can be both positive and negative. A small amount of it which is manageable to an individual can be a tool for motivation and high performance. When it becomes too much to handle, stress can negatively affect performance and be detrimental to mental and physical health.

According to the Stress Management Society, there has been a 65% increase in stress since the pandemic. Millions of people experience this daily which damages our health, yet we often do not take it seriously. Stress can be linked to anxiety, depression, heart disease, immune system problems, insomnia, and digestive problems.

The past year, the three key causes for concern are feelings of disconnection, uncertainty, and a worrying loss of control. If you’ve ever felt so stressed at some point that you became overwhelmed or even unable to cope, read our tips for de-stressing. It’s important to determine the cause of your own personal stress and learn how to reduce it so you and your peers can feel better and healthier.

4 Tips for Coping with Stress

Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms & understand the intention behind the action.

When feeling stressed, sometimes we reach for things that we believe will make us feel better, which may not be very good for us. Maybe you indulge in eating or drinking to numb your feelings of overwhelmingness. Some bury themselves in work instead of taking needed rest time or constantly check social media on their time off. Though a delicious meal, a nice drink, or side projects are not bad in and of themselves, but the depending on why and how much of them we are partaking in can make us feel worse later on. If you’re doing something to relax, that’s great, but avoid doing anything just to numb or drown out your feelings.

Rethink your response.

Studies show that changing the way we think about stress can mitigate its negative impacts. In her TED Talk, Kelly McGonigal recommends rethinking your physical responses as helpful instead – a pounding heart is preparing you for action; breathing faster is getting more oxygen to your brain. Shifting your perspective to think of these responses as your body’s way of helping you rise to the challenge leads to a healthier stress response. When people in a Harvard study viewed their body’s natural response as helpful before going through a test, they were less anxious, more confident, and their blood vessels stayed relaxed – a similar cardiovascular response to moments of joy or courage.

Talk to someone about it.

Connecting with people can do wonders for lowering our stress levels. During a stress response we release oxytocin, a neurohormone that spurs us to seek out close relationships and makes us crave contact with loved ones. Oxytocin is released during hugs, and it is known to make us feel good. However, when it’s released during stress it instead urges us to seek support.  Research has shown that although major stressful life events increased the risk of dying, people who spent time helping out friends, neighbors or people in their community could sever this association – in other words, caring created resilience.

Get physical.

Exercise releases feel-good endorphins and has the added benefit of distracting us from whatever is causing us stress. Any physical movement, whether it’s going for a walk or joining a spinning class, can act as a stress reliever. This will shed tension, boost energy, and improve self-confidence and mood. It can also help us sleep and has numerous other positive effects on our cardiovascular, digestive and immune systems. It’s important to protect our bodies from the negative effects of stress and decreasing anxiety levels. Choose something you enjoy and just move around!

Sources: LinkedIn: Four ways to deal with feeling stressed

Stress Management Society: Stress Awareness Month April 2021 – Regain Connection, Certainty and Control