No one is immune to stress and anxiety. While both are a normal part of everyday life, poor management of such can lead to a variety of physical and mental health issues. To understand exactly what impact stress and anxiety can have on our well-being, it's important to first establish the difference between them. Contrary to popular belief, they aren't one and the same.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), stress is a response to a threat in a situation while anxiety is a reaction to the stress. Stress is caused by more external pressures that are circumstantial in nature, while anxiety is caused by more internal pressures that play on our generalized fears and worries.
Both can lead to insomnia, fatigue, excessive worrying, fuzzy thinking, and irascibility. Even more physical symptoms like abnormal heart rates, high blood pressure, and muscle tension can manifest. That's why it's important to know how to properly manage your stress and anxiety—you want to keep such symptoms at bay so that you can live a happy and healthy life. The following coping mechanisms will surely help:
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Remember: It won't last
Perhaps one of the greatest life lessons you can learn comes from the well-known proverb that goes: "This too shall pass." It's a reminder that everything in existence is constantly undergoing change. Your thoughts, emotions, ideas, and predicaments are never permanent. They will all, at some point, pass as everything else does.
That means, in effect, your stress and anxiety will also pass. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by a situation or by your own mind, just keep that fact in the back of your head. Simply knowing that the bad times won't last can help you get through them.
Find ways to self-soothe
There are a variety of ways you can help your body fight off the stress and anxiety. Something as simple as diaphragmatic breathing, that is, breathing by contracting the diaphragm, can help tame a pounding heart rate and activate the body's natural relaxation response. It may even be more effective when used during meditation.
For mental relief, you can engage in positive self-talk. Putting yourself in a positive state of mind can do wonders for easing your apprehensions. By verbally reciting phrases like "I will get through this" or "I am in control of the situation," you can bring yourself some emotional comfort and motivation to keep pushing on.
Eat the right things
Diet has a significant effect on our physical and mental well-being. For example, studies have shown that even small traces of caffeine, which can be found in coffee, soft drinks, tea, and chocolate, can cause anxiety to develop. In more extreme cases, it can even trigger panic attacks.
Everything works on a chemical level. The foods we eat directly influence our hormone balances, leading to different bodily reactions and emotional states. That's why it's important to pick healthy meal choices and resist the temptation to binge on junk foods. Doing the latter could send you deeper into an anxious state. Moderation is always key.
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Get your exercise on
Exercise is not only good for our physical health—it's great for our mental health as well. In fact, several studies in the past few decades have shown that exercise is even more effective than taking medication. Before you get on those antidepressants, it may be worth your while to give exercise a shot first.
Keeping a regular workout routine is a proven way to lower stress. The physical act of moving helps the body release beneficial chemicals called endorphins, which, through their interactions with various receptors in the brain, help bring about feelings of euphoria and relaxation. As with diet, exercise should also be performed in moderation.
Catch those Zzz's
Almost everyone has a hard time operating on insufficient sleep. Not having enough shut-eye can cause mood swings and emotional disorders that can further amplify the effects of stress and anxiety. Getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night can really improve your mood and the quality of your life in general.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that even a couple of hours of sleep lost each night can contribute to consistent anger, sadness, and exhaustion. Sleep is the critical period when the body shuts down in order to re-energize and repair itself. If you have trouble sleeping, make sure to check out our 5 science-backed ways to fall asleep faster.