It's common to hear people complain about stress. It 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 have learned to get by on less sleep than you need. Even so, controlling your stress and thereby improving your rest is good for your health. Better sleep will help you fight infections, boost your metabolism, and cut your chances of getting diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.
What Are the Signs?
Stress can show up in different ways. Some common signs -- besides sleep loss -- include depression, tension, anxiety, indifference, work mistakes, and poor focus. You might feel physical signs, too, like headaches and chest, neck, or back pain, upset stomach, fatigue, or loss of appetite.
Tips for Managing Stress
Figure out what’s bothering you: You may already know why you're on edge. But if you don't, take a good look at your situation. Are you overloaded at work? Do you interact with needy or demanding people? Once you know what's causing your discomfort, you can take steps to try to deal with it.
Get the support of friends: Spending time with family and friends is a key buffer. When you share your problems with compassionate people who care for you, you unload tension and get their support. Even if you don't feel like talking, you can find some fun activities to share with your family or friends.
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 thinking that creates or worsens bad feelings. 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 a failure at my whole job because I missed one deadline.") Many CDs and 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 has a lot of benefits, including easing 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.
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. Don't be afraid to ask others for help and to find ways to free up more of your time.
Take steps to improve your sleep: Sleep doesn't always come naturally -- you may have to set yourself up for a full night's rest. Set a regular bedtime and waking up time and stick to them. Before you go to bed, try to wind down with meditation or relaxation techniques.
If your sleep problems persist, talk to your doctor. They can help you address your stress and any underlying causes beyond it.