This article is Medically Approved ✓ by Dr. Edward Salko
If there’s one thing that the majority of adults hate the most, that would be stress. Being under so much pressure and anxiety is a dreadful experience. It’s incredibly unpleasant, unhealthy, and sometimes can become borderline deadly.
A study published in the American Psychologist Journal found that daily stress and poor overall well-being were higher among American adults in the 2010s than those in the 1990s.
This finding suggests that the factors contributing to stress aggravate this generation of adults while counteracting methods are either limited or ineffective.
With that, there is the reality that relieving stress is sometimes easier said than done, especially if you have an ironclad schedule. Whether busy at work or inside your own home, finding ways to lessen stress can be tricky.
But, if you understand the gravity of stress and learn simple yet effective ways to deal with stress despite the hectic schedule, you could be on your way to a healthier routine.
Critical Effects of Stress
Stress is a part of life. It’s inevitable, and quite frankly, a little bit of stress can be healthy. It encourages productivity and even creativity. But excessive stress can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health.
The common effects of stress depend on the duration and intensity of your exposure to stressors. Nevertheless, if you are consistently exposed to stressful situations and environments, you need to watch out for the following health effects.
- Low Energy
- Body aches
- Fatigue or Extreme Tiredness
- Frequent Infections and Illnesses
- Gastrointestinal problems (diarrhea, constipation)
- Clenched jaw
- Dry mouth
- Low sexual desire
- Sleep problems
- Nervous shaking
- Sweaty and cold hands and feet
- Muscle tension
- Constant worrying
- Feeling of helplessness
- Loss of control
- Trouble concentrating
While these effects are already alarming, stress is also a significant factor in developing many diseases and disorders.
For example, stress can influence your eating habits. When you are under extreme pressure, you may find comfort in unhealthy foods containing high sugars and fats.
This dependence on food can lead to overeating which in turn increases your risk not just of obesity but other diseases as well like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
What Is Chronic Stress?
Chronic stress is a condition characterized by a persistent and prolonged feeling of stress. Once it goes untreated, it will cause harm to your body. One of the dangers of chronic stress is that it can remain unrecognized because it’s constant in your day-to-day routine.
However, you can assess if you experience the impacts as mentioned earlier of stress along with these behavioral signs of stress.
- Irritability or moodiness
- Inability to tolerate minor inconveniences
- Unhealthy patterns or coping mechanisms (smoking, drinking alcohol, drugs)
- Fidgeting and pacing all the time
- Constantly worrying or have racing thoughts
Negative thoughts and pessimism could also persist in a person with chronic stress. Thus, these consistent behavioral responses can lead to mental illnesses like depression and general anxiety.
Can A Blood Test Diagnose Chronic Stress?
Yes, a blood test can help diagnose chronic stress.
The most common one is the cortisol blood test. This type of test measures the levels of cortisol in your blood.
Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. So, if you have high cortisol levels, it means that you are under high levels of stress.
Nevertheless, chronic stress is also diagnosed through an interview or assessment procedure performed by a mental health professional.
But adding the results of the cortisol blood test can increase the accuracy of the qualitative diagnosis.
What to Do if You Are Diagnosed With Chronic Stress?
The most sensible thing to do when you have chronic stress is to find ways and avenues to relax and be calm.
Your doctor may prescribe certain medications depending on the levels of stress you experience. However, most of the work falls under your own stress management methods.
While it is far easier to take a lengthy break to focus on your wellness, it’s often a luxury many people can’t afford.
Let’s face it. Most of the stress we experience often comes from work. But, unfortunately, there is no easy way to give up work as our lifestyle mostly depends on our jobs.
However, all is not lost. There are still healthy and effective ways to manage stress even if you are busy all the time. Check out the following.
7 Ways to Manage Stress If You Are Busy
Yoga is a great relaxation exercise that promotes mindfulness while releasing tension from your body. It improves both your physical and mental health. Plus, it can be done in the comfort of your home. You can skip a trip to the gym and even join a virtual yoga class.
But more than the convenience, yoga has been proven effective in relieving stress and anxiety.
In a randomized clinical trial conducted by researchers from Lund University, Sweden, yoga practitioners who participated in the study for 16 consecutive weeks significantly reduced their stress levels compared to the group who did not do yoga.
The data supported earlier studies promoting the health benefits of yoga for mental illnesses like depression.
2. Breathing Exercises
If you need to relieve stress, all you gotta do is perform some breathing exercises.
More often than not, we pay less attention to our breathing as it seems like an automated function in our body. But what you may have missed is that breathing properly contributes to wellness more than meets the eye.
They may be simple, but this response can keep you calm and out of panic mode.
Research uncovered the advantages of breathing exercises, especially in lowering the levels of cortisol.
As mentioned earlier, cortisol is a hormone that triggers responses to stressful conditions. Hence, lowering cortisol will also decrease the adverse effects of stress.
3. Listen to Calming Podcasts and Music
A podcast is a digital audio file that can be downloaded to your phone. They are often episodic, talking about different issues within a specific niche. So you can think of it as a downloadable radio program.
Over 60% of American adults listen to podcasts. Moreover, they do it simultaneously with other activities such as working out, driving, doing chores, etc., making it a perfect activity for people with hectic schedules.
Hence, a lot of psychologists recommend listening to podcasts that influence people towards mental wellness.
On the other hand, listening to relaxing music is another way to deal with stress. It rewires your brain and conditions your mind to release tension and ease up anxiety.
4. Skip Coffee
Coffee is almost tied up with adulthood. Most people start to truly function socially after finishing a cup of coffee. But unfortunately for coffee lovers, this beloved beverage can influence stress – and not in a good way.
Caffeine which is commonly found in coffee, can increase cortisol levels if taken above the recommended amount.
In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Cardiff, high caffeine intake is associated with the risk of developing anxiety and depression.
If you are highly dependent on coffee, there is a chance that it can worsen your stress and anxiety. So, while caffeine is known to boost energy, it also has jittery effects on the body that can cause harm to your health.
5. Stick to Healthy Foods
Your diet tells a lot about your health and your tolerance level for stress.
Research has always backed the claims that unhealthy food, specifically those found in Western diets, can increase the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Therefore, if you are stressed but too busy to book a trip to a tropical resort, skip foods high in fats and sugar. This way, you won’t aggravate the condition.
As you say goodbye to unhealthy foods, you can say hello to natural foods that lower cortisol levels. Include the following in your regular diet to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Greek yogurt
6. Rehydrate Regularly
Never underestimate the power of regular water drinking.
While water is often overlooked, especially if you are busy, rehydrating between tasks can reduce stress and anxiety as water has calming effects. This is why drinking water, especially during a hot summer day, can be relaxing.
In a 2018 study published at the World Journal of Psychiatry, it was suggested that regular water consumption could lower the risk for depression.
Not only does it replenish water molecules needed by your cells, but water can also re-energize your brain, which influences the release of critical neurotransmitters and hormones in the body.
Talking to yourself is often perceived as odd or even inappropriate at times. But self-talk is actually considered a powerful tool to keep you grounded when things go awry.
Positive self-talk keeps you away from negative thoughts.
More often than not, when faced with a stressful situation, your brain will gravitate into thinking the worse before looking into any positive side.
By providing yourself with an optimistic narrative, you improve your confidence and restart your cognition, significantly solving problems.
So, if you are busy but stressed, a lot of minutes or even seconds to reassure yourself through an internal conversation or pep talk.
The Bottom Line
Stress is nobody’s favorite word, let alone everyday experience.
If you are suffering from chronic stress but lack the time or budget to deal with it, consider using these seven simple strategies to manage stress. All of these methods are doable within any space and as part of your busy routine.
Also, do not hesitate to consult with your doctor if you experience symptoms suggestive of chronic stress or other related disorders. Your stress levels can be tested through a Cortisol Blood Test.
As stress tends to eat up your entire day, month, or even year, take the necessary precaution to protect your health and wellness.