Apprehension about future uncertainties, a chronic health condition, going through major life changes, overwhelming responsibilities, negativity, joblessness, and more are factors likely to cause stress to most people. However, it’s not only triggered by external or internal factors. You can also pick up stress from social interactions – spouse, other household members, colleagues, etc. – usually referred to as emotional contagion.
Though emotional contagion can be helpful in some settings, the negative side is when stress is spread.
How Does Stress Impact Us?
Generally, stress is a natural reaction to some threat or demand. While it can be positive in some situations, such as pushing you to meet a strict deadline or keeping you alert and out of danger, if it’s prolonged, it can cause adverse effects to your health.
Sadly, stress affects the entire body. Every system suffers when you’re under stress from the cardiovascular to the gastrointestinal, nervous, respiratory, reproductive system, and so forth.
Some common effects of stress include;
- Interrupted sleep patterns – Stress interferes with the hormones responsible for creating healthy sleep patterns, decreasing sleep quality. In the long run, these interruptions impact physical and mental health negatively.
- Challenges in making decisions – Stress interferes with our thought processes. For example, people under stress tend to make biased decisions or take too long to form opinions.
- Increased risk of disease – Chronic stress increases the risk of disease immensely. This is because elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol compromise the immune system. Possible stress-related health problems include liver disease, stomach upset, mental health conditions, heart attack, etc.
- Difficulty controlling your emotions – Stress impairs your ability to control your emotions, making you more susceptible to feelings of anger, frustration, irritability, and so forth. As a result, your social interactions may suffer negatively, and the probability of passing stress to others heightens.
Ways to Reduce Stress for Yourself and Others
Under normal circumstances, eliminating stressors entirely is not easy. Besides, you have little control over other people’s stress states regarding emotional contagion. Nonetheless, managing stress is essential to avoid its adverse effects on your general well-being.
Here are various ways in which you can manage stress.
Exercise produces feel-good hormones like endorphins, responsible for lifting our mood. In addition, regular exercise can be therapeutic by keeping stress at bay. Going swimming, taking a walk, cycling, hitting the gym, or engaging in any physical activity that gets your body active can help release healthy doses of happy hormones into your system and neutralize stress.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet helps manage stress in many ways. For instance, since stress weakens the immune system, eating a good diet provides the body with a balanced quantity of essential nutrients, which goes a long way in boosting your overall health. Then, again, a healthy diet helps keep the gastrointestinal system healthy, promoting better mental health (stress reduction) since the two are closely interlinked.
Get Enough Sleep
Stress and sleep have an intertwined relationship. It can disrupt regular sleep cycles, while inadequate and poor-quality sleep can cause stress. If you’re struggling with stress, getting quality sleep every night can go a long way in balancing your hormones, thereby managing your stress levels.
Practice Deep Breathing
Deep breathing might seem like a simple exercise, but it’s a great body relaxing technique. It helps pump more oxygen to the brain, creating a calming effect and triggering a better stress response.
Replace Negative Thoughts
Stress triggered by negativity can be incapacitating, especially if you get addicted to negative thinking. The best way to get over this is by countering negative thoughts with positive ones. Here you need to train your mind to stop dwelling on the negative side of things by replacing pessimism with positive thinking. For example, you could focus on a previous achievement or a beautiful memory when a negative thought pops up. Important here is not to ignore or suppress your thoughts but rather allow them to be heard and felt so you can move along to the good stuff with self-compassion.
If you’re experiencing stress in your relationships, doing the above can only help so much. First, you need to talk about your stressors and find ways of resolving the issues. Whatever the situation, let the other person know you understand their feelings and make them feel cared for and valued. Remember, by helping them overcome whatever stressful situation they may be going through, you keep yourself from catching the negative emotions and spreading them to other people in your life.
Get Well with Less Stress
Stress management is essential to enhance the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of yourself and other people in your life. Without a proactive approach to managing the stressors in your life, you may get caught in a cycle of stress day in and day out, especially since it’s contagious. We hope the above tips will go a long way in helping you stop the spread of stress and regain your health.
To learn the best, clinically proven stress management techniques available today, click here to get your copy of Less Stress Now: A Mindfulness Manual for the Modern World.