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How to Manage Stress

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What Are the Symptoms of Stress?

Stress symptoms vary greatly from one person to the next, but the most universal sign of stress is a feeling of being pressured or overwhelmed. Other symptoms include:

  • Physical complaints (stomachaches, headaches, chest pains, nausea, and diarrhea, and a sensation of numbness or tingling in your hands, arms, and face.)
  • Problems getting along with family members, friends, and teachers.
  • Changes in behavior at home (short temper, unexplained anger, crying for no reason).
  • Regression -- behavior that is not age-appropriate.
  • Dysfunctional sleep patterns, including nightmares, too little sleep, difficulty falling asleep, or even oversleeping.
  • Communication difficulty or personality changes, such as becoming withdrawn or requiring much more attention than usual.
  • Impatience.

If you are experiencing a few of these symptoms, chances are that your level of stress is high. If left untreated, stress can lead to permanent feelings of helplessness and ineffectiveness.

Tips for Managing Stress

Now that you understand more about stress and the symptoms, try the following these 6 tips to unwind, de-stress, and get back in control of your emotional state:

  1. Identify the sources of stress. Try to figure out what's causing your stress symptoms. Maybe you are overextended (too many commitments) and feel fatigued and irritable. Once you identify the sources of stress, try to minimize these as much as possible.
  2. Talk it out. Talk to a friend, family member, or therapist if your stress level is too high. Getting your feelings out without others judging you is crucial to good mental health.
  3. Take time out. Before you reach your breaking point, take time out for solitude. Take time to nurture yourself, away from the cares and responsibilities of the world. Find time for inner strength and emotional healing.
  4. Set limits. Never hesitate to say "no" before you take on too many commitments. Especially if you are balancing work and family, it's important to prioritize. Saying "no" can help bring your stress to a manageable level and give you more control over your life.
  5. Try exhaling. Breathing can measure and alter your psychological state, making a stressful moment increase or diminish in intensity. Often, people who are anxious or upset take shallow breaths and unconsciously hold them. By paying attention to your breathing, particularly exhaling during tense moments, you will feel more relaxed. Buy a bottle of inexpensive bubbles (in the toy section at most stores), and use it to learn how to exhale slowly. Breathing from your abdomen, blow through the bubble blower with a steady stream of breath. If you blow too hard or too softly, you won't get any bubbles. But smooth, steady breaths will produce a nice flow of bubbles. Use this breathing technique (without the bubbles) when you are feeling stressed.
  6. Exercise daily. Exercise is thought to increase the secretion of endorphins, naturally produced substances in the brain that induce feelings of peacefulness. Many studies show that exercise, along with the boosted endorphin levels, really does increase confidence and self-esteem and reduce tension. Exercise also acts as a displacement defense mechanism for those who are "stressed out." What does that mean? If you've ever walked for several miles, you know how hard it is to think of your problems when your mind is focused on walking.
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