What is Stress (& What Can I Do About It?)

Asma Rehman, LPC

We all deal with stress now & then. Whether it’s from friends, family, relationships, work, whatever it’s from we all go through it. Even though we’re all familiar with it, we don’t always know exactly what it is, where it’s coming from, or what to do about it when it comes around.

What is Stress (& What Can I Do About It?)At its most basic level, stress is your body responding to the demands of your life. When you have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, you might get a stress headache. When you’re in a fight with a friend or a partner, you might feel a stomach ache. These are physical ways our body responds to stressful situations. When you’re out of balance, overworked, or burnt out, your body struggles just as your mind does to deal with the new strain on your well being.

Basically, stress is the feeling you get when you’re struggling to keep up with external or internal demands.

Stress feels different for all of us, all the time. It can be emotional or physical, there’s no hard and fast rule for how stress shows up for us all. A few ways stress can manifest or present itself are:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Muscle pain or tension
  • Irritability

While they may seem completely unrelated to the stress you’re experiencing in the workplace or in the home, physical symptoms are often there to clue us into when we’re overworking ourselves or demand too much of ourselves (both mentally and physically).

Unfortunately, for a lot of people, they just don’t feel like they have enough free time to actually deal with the stress they feel. Many of us work a minimum of 5 days a week, often times more, with long, arduous workdays, and by the time we get home we just want to sit down and do something mindless for a while! This doesn’t leave us with a lot of energy to combat stress or the manifestations of stress.what is stress 5

But stress relief based self-care doesn’t have to totally change your whole daily routine. You don’t have to get up early to do yoga before work if you don’t have time (especially if trouble sleeping is one of the ways your body expresses stress!) There are many ways to help manage stress that can be worked into your existing daily routine. (It’s always better to do a little bit of self-care & stress management when you can, instead of none at all!)

Here are 3 common stress management techniques that you can try even when you only have a few free minutes:

1. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Did you know most of us didn’t learn to breathe right? If you’ve ever seen a baby breathe, you’ll notice that their stomach rises & falls with their breath. But that’s not how most of us breathe as we grow up! Instead, we shift the focus of our breath to our chests–which means we get shallow, rapid breaths (which is then exacerbated when under stress) instead of the full belly breaths like we’re supposed to get! When you’re feeling stressed, focus on breathing from your stomach instead of your chest. Watch the rise and fall of your stomach to make sure you’re getting the deep, full breaths you need.

2. Meditation 

Most of us have heard of meditation as stress relief before, but it can feel daunting to jump into meditation if you’ve never tried it before! Instead of trying long meditation sessions right away, work it into your routine in small moments throughout your day. When you’re brushing your teeth, when you’re walking from the parking lot to the office, when you’re eating a meal: focus only on the present moment. Force your mind back to the present every time you feel it wander. What do you feel? See? Smell? Taste? What is your body doing, how is the environment around you interacting with you?

3. Tapping (or Emotional Freedom Technique)

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Have you heard of tapping? Tapping is a technique similar to acupuncture because it focuses on your body’s meridian points. But while acupuncture uses needles, tapping simply uses pressure from the fingertips to access these energy spots. You can find a short (9 minute!) video on tapping for stress relief right here.

Need more help with stress management? Grief Recovery Center in Houston, TX can help. You can reach us at (832) 413-2410 or by filling out the form on our website. Take the time to speak with one of our licensed counselors today.

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