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Fab Feminist Magazine

Self-Care: Dealing with Stress

Self-Care: Dealing with Stress

by Callie Garp

October 28, 2016

Everyone encounters stressful events. Stress can be a good motivator, but being under constant and prolonged exposure to stress can  lead to health issues. Dealing with stress such that it impacts us positively rather than negatively is a very beneficial self-care strategy. Practicing stress management promotes better well-being and helps alleviate the negative effects of constant stress. People deal with stress differently, so it’s important to be aware of what is working for us and if it is improving the situation or not.

Stress in moderate amounts is good; it triggers our ‘flight or fight’ response which helps us deal with pressure or threats. However, stress sustained over a long period of time will affect our body negatively. Stressors vary among people. The death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, losing a job, speaking in public, an anticipated phone call, major life changes, being too busy, or being ill can all cause stress. Prolonged stress can cause problems to our physical and mental health.

Self-care strategies can be helpful in reducing the ill-effects of stress.

Stop and Acknowledge/Recognize that you are under stress.

Stress is a common part of life. Some stress can do  more harm than good. Unfortunately, the body’s nervous system cannot differentiate accurately between life-threatening situations and daily stressors. Constant stress is damaging to our wellbeing, so it’s essential that we listen to what our body tells us so that we can recognize if we need to take action to reduce our stress. Note that the manifestations of stress varies among people. It’s important to be mindful of how your body responds to stress.

Symptoms of constant stress can appear as cognitive, emotional, physical, or behavioral symptoms. These manifest as  memory and concentration problems, moodiness, irritability, depression, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, sleeping too much or too little, withdrawing from others, or neglect responsibilities. Note that the effects of stress can be worse for some people, so it is important to consult with a medical professional.

Being able to point out when you are experiencing stress is a good way to recognize what stresses you. Make a mental note of your common stressors so that you know the patterns of what makes you stressed. The next time a stressor is present, you can then be more prepared in dealing with the stress resulting in the ability to lessen the bad effects of stress.

I find myself having a bad headache when things go out of plan. Then, I find it easy to hate myself for not being in control and being prepared for whatever happens. I feel overwhelmed and quite irritable and angry when my plan is not followed to the dot. Since this has happened multiple times, I decided to make a note of when I sense that I am stressed so I could recognize it next time it happens.

It turns out that I often get stressed by sudden change in plans. I plan most of the things I do and I like to schedule my daily routine. I plan when I’m going to have my shopping trips, movie nights, dinner with friends, and even when I have a relaxing night off. I like planning because it gives me a feeling that I am in control of my life. However, more often than not, life does not always go the way I planned. The vinyl I’m planning on buying may be suddenly sold out, a friend may cancel at the last minute, it may be raining too hard for me to go outside or there’s an urgent task I have to finish so I can’t have that relaxing evening off.  

It took me a while to realize that not everything will go the way I want it to. I am still in the process of  trying to live without the expectation that everything is going to be perfect. Everything is bound to deviate from what I want for things to go. Being too focused on following my plans will just lead me to more stress.  I still get stressed when things get out of hand but now that I recognize how stressful I get at those times, I am mindful of not blaming myself for things I cannot control.

Practice being mindful of how you cope with stress

People respond differently to stress and everyone has their own ways of relieving stress. It could be by taking a break, practicing meditation, doing charity work, or by going out with friends. However, some responses to stress are bound to do more harm than good if not done with proper control. Some of these are stress eating, retail therapy, and avoidance.

For some, eating the stress away is a good way to relieve stress. Constant high cortisol levels in the body can lead a person to eat more. But consuming unhealthy food and overeating are both ways of introducing health problems in the long run because the insulin levels may get messed up. It can also result to blood sugar imbalance, heart disease, and sleep-related breathing disorders.  While it was proven that retail therapy is a mood booster, doing so excessively and without the right amount of funds will lead to financial problems in the future. Stress is known to reduce self-control, making the idea of instant gratification tempting. The idea of instant gratification is the reason why some people resort to drinking alcohol, binge eating, compulsive spending, and self-harm. Some people also resort to avoiding the stressor all together. Instead of dealing with the problem directly, some people tend to divert their attention to something else. In the long run, coping through avoidance might lead to the introduction of more stressors.

I find myself doing retail therapy when I feel overwhelmed and stressed. I end up overspending most of the time which results in not contributing to my savings account for a few months at a time. I do feel a bit happier after my shopping spree but then I have my financial status to stress about. It took me a while to accept the idea that overspending just makes me feel more stressed and so I have come into terms with spending money wisely and using other forms of de-stressing that are equally fulfilling but not as expensive. It is important to be mindful of how we cope and if it is doing us good or harm. Doing so will give us an insight on how we should change or sustain our coping habits.

Take care of your needs

More often than not, constant stress may leave us unmotivated and productive. We could use this time to stand back, take a break, and look at things from a different perspective. It would also be good to use this time to redirect our attention to something that makes us feel better about ourselves. Maybe it is time to reevaluate our priorities, change our game plan, or even move onto other ventures.

It is important to listen to what your body needs. Take a good rest if it’s what your body needs. Eat healthy food. Try a new exercise if you feel like doing so. You can also reach out and talk to a friend if you need to. Confide in someone you can trust and someone who you’re confident with that will give reasonable advice. If you find it difficult to deal with, you can talk to a medical or mental health professional. There is nothing wrong in seeking help. Asking for help is something we all have to do at some point in our lives. It allows for us to have the support we need.

Most importantly, do not rush. Allow yourself the time to heal. There is no set pace for dealing with stressful events. It’s essential to do things at your own speed and not compare your progress with others’.

Doing acts of kindness makes me feel less stressed. It somehow grounds me to the fact that I can do good even when some things are currently stressing me out. I also practice meditation. I mainly use Calm app and practice the art of being mindful. I also take a break when I can and try to steer clear away for a while as I try to recollect my senses so I can have a better understanding of the situation.

Stress affects everyone differently. Being able to recognize how badly stress affects you and seeking help at the soonest possible is a good means to prevent further ill-effects of chronic stress. One may also apply self-care techniques like meditation, eating healthy, working out, doing acts of kindness, meeting up with a loved one, going out to enjoy the nature, and so many more  to help alleviate the effects of stress. One could also look into Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for changing behavior or coping patterns that affect us negatively. All in all, everyone is dealing with stress in one way or another. Having the knowledge in dealing with life’s stressors properly is essential to living a fulfilling life.

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Rizza Gonzaga is a 21 year old feminist from the Philippines. She has a Bachelor of  Science degree in computer science from University of the Philippines. Keep up with Rizza here!

This article was edited by Elizabeth Gallien.



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