Stress affects your feelings, your body, and the way you act. The right amount of stress can actually help you. It keeps you alert and full of energy. Too much, though, can harm your quality of life and keep you awake at night.
Even though you might feel frazzled, you may try to get by on less sleep than you need. But better sleep can help you fight infections, boost your metabolism, and cut your chances of getting diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. Controlling your stress can improve your rest. It's a win-win.
Stress can show up in different ways. Some common signs, besides sleep loss, include depression, tension, anxiety, and poor focus. You might feel physical signs, too, like headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, appetite loss, and chest, neck, or back pain.
Tips for Managing Stress
Find the source of your stress: Once you know what's causing your discomfort, you can take steps to deal with it. So identify the stress you have at work, at home, and in your relationships.
Get support: Spending time with people who care about you is a key buffer. You can confide in each other or do things that are fun for a break.
Practice having healthy thoughts: What you think, how you think, and what you expect out of situations can affect how you feel. You can learn to change stressful thinking. One common mistake is to focus on the way things "should" be. (Example: "I should be more productive around the house.") Another mistake is to make broad statements based on one small fact. (Example: "I'm failing at my job because I had one food splurge.”) Many books can teach you how to improve your self-talk. Certain types of counseling, including cognitive behavioral therapy, can help you focus on more empowering thoughts, too.
Get moving: Exercise eases stress by letting you blow off tension. Flexible muscles are also less likely to become tense when you're stressed. If you have a medical condition, are over age 45, or haven't been active for a while, it’s best to check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine, so you know what's OK for you to do.
Eat a better diet: You probably already know how smart it is to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and less sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. When you make that shift, you'll have more energy to handle stress.
Lighten your load: Having too many commitments or responsibilities on your schedule can lead to stress. Start asking others for help, and find ways to free up more of your time.
Take steps to improve your sleep: Set a regular bedtime and waking-up time, and stick to them. Before you go to bed, wind down with meditation or relaxation techniques. Just sitting quietly for a few minutes can make a difference.
If your sleep problems persist, talk to a doctor. They can help you address your stress and help you figure out what's causing it.