Research institutions from around the world have been making progress in understanding the effects of stress on the human body and their link with a variety of health problems.
Stress has been linked to increased rates of heart disease, digestive issues, asthma, and various types of addiction.
It is important to recognize the signs that you are being negatively affected by stress and learn which techniques will best help you pivot away from negative soothing behaviors in favor of those that will improve your overall level of health and well-being.
Signs You Are Stressed
There are many symptoms associated with heightened levels of stress, including difficulty sleeping, trouble focusing on tasks, body tension, fatigue, and a variety of illnesses with no apparent physical cause. As the effects of stress become more severe, people can also become angry more easily and may notice more frequent headaches.
It is important to learn to notice signs that you are experiencing mental or emotional stress early. These symptoms may be as benign as being slightly more tired at night or less interest in things one typically enjoys such as spending time with friends or watching television. When caught early, it is much easier to find ways to reverse the effects of stress that are less damaging to one’s health and lifestyle.
In some cases, stress can lead people to self-medicate. This type of behavior may appear to ease the initial stages of stress but can ultimately create a situation that is far worse, such as addiction. Drug treatment programs make an effort to teach people exactly how to manage their stress with a variety of techniques to help ensure success after their treatment has ended.
Methods of Relieving Stress
Anything that helps people move out of their mind and into their body can help them better cope with stressful situations. This can be a purely physical activity, a creative endeavor, or a mindfulness practice.
Practices such as Tai-Chi and Qi-Gong are excellent methods of engaging in a physical activity that has well-documented stress reduction benefits. The ancient physical practices help engage the individual in series of repetitive movements performed in fluid motions. The focus needed to perform these successfully helps center the person in their body and focus all of their attention on their movement instead of the stressful situation.
Art and music offer people many different methods of expressing their emotions in ways that are nondestructive. Art therapy can take the form of any artistic medium a person finds engaging. This may include sculpting, drawing, painting, graphic design, calligraphy, ceramics, illustration, photography, or even graffiti. Music therapy may include learning a new instrument or participating in a drumming circle. All types of art and music force an individual to focus on their creation rather than the effects of stress they are experiencing.
Interestingly, mindfulness practices create an environment that facilitates greater focus on the body and less on the repetitive thoughts that are so often present when people are experiencing heightened levels of stress.
Meditation is one of the most popular methods of practicing mindfulness and has many different forms.
Nearly 80 percent of adults in the United States report experiencing stress so severe that it causes physical symptoms. Almost half say it has had a negative impact on both their professional and personal lives. For those who are predisposed to addictive behaviors, this can precipitate a relapse. By taking the time to truly understand one’s own stress responses and learn new coping mechanisms, it is possible for those suffering from addiction to maintain their sobriety.