Everyone feels stressed at times, but stress is not always bad. Sometimes short-term stress can be positive. For example, feeling your heart rate and breathing increase right before you play a big game can help you focus and get your body ready to be active. However, stress that lasts for long periods of time or returns regularly when you don’t want it to, can have a negative impact on your life and your health.
We may feel stress when we are in a situation where we feel threatened, overwhelmed, or excited. Although everyone’s reactions to stress are different, some common reactions to stress can include:
- Feeling sad, frustrated, or helpless
- Having difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Feeling anxious or irritable
- Feeling numb or depressed
- Experiencing headaches, back pain, or stomach problems
- Feeling your heart rate and breathing increase
- Not feeling hungry and feeling hungrier than usual
- Smoking or using alcohol or drugs
- Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to positively address our stress and cope in healthy ways.
Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress
Consider exploring these healthy ways to cope with stress. They can support you in retraining your brain, feeling more in control of your body, and becoming more resilient and mentally strong.
Learn your stress
We all experience stress differently, and sometimes how we express our stress changes depending on the situation or where we are at in our lives. When some of us are stressed we feel like our energy gets turned up. Our heart might race, our skin might feel tingly, and our breathing might get faster – like your body is getting ready to run a race. When others of us are stressed our energy may get turned down. We might feel numb, low, sluggish – like our body wants to fall sleep or rest. Many of us have reactions to stress that don’t fit in either of these categories.
The point is though that if you learn what your stress looks like, you can make a plan for how to address it. Next time, you are feeling stressed take a moment to observe how your body feels, what you are thinking, and what you are doing.
Once you understand what your stress looks like, you can think about how to get back into balance. So, for example, if you notice that when you are stressed your energy gets turned up, try to do calming grounding activities that help turn your energy down. Grounding activities work best if they include all 5 senses. So, to help turn your energy down try:
- Burning a candle that smells nice or smudging (sense of smell)
- Sitting in a quiet room or listening to calming music (sense of hearing)
- Wrapping yourself in a fuzzy blanket or focusing on feeling the sensation of your feet on the ground (sense of touch)
- Reading a calming book or watching a funny movie (sense of sight), and
- Drinking some herbal tea or eating a healthy tasty snack (sense of taste)
If you notice that when you are stressed your energy gets turned down, try to do activating activities that help turn your energy up. So, to help turn your energy up try:
- Using a lotion with a scent you enjoy or applying a scent, like peppermint oil, that makes you feel awake (sense of smell)
- Listening to energizing music or calling a friend to chat (sense of hearing)
- Taking a shower (sense of touch)
- Watching a funny movie or taking a walking in nature (sense of sight), and
- Eating a healthy snack or chewing gum (sense of taste)
Caring for ourselves when we are stressed is important. Eating healthy, well-balanced meals, engaging in exercise or meditation, sleeping, and taking time to connect spiritually and with those we love are all important aspects of self-love. Sometimes to de-stress we might need to address our health in multiple ways to have a larger impact.
Talk to someone
Share your worries and how you are feeling with a trusted friend, parent, counselor, health professional, Elder, or pastor. Sometimes others have important lesson to share and can help us see things in a new light.
Be nice to yourself
Focus on your strengths. How we talk to ourselves makes a huge difference to how we feel. If problems continue and your stress is getting you down, talk to a health professional, like a psychologist, social worker, or counselor. These individuals can help get you get your stress in check.
You may want to check out – Native American Healing Meditations
For more information on coping with stress check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.