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How to Manage Stress

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

What is stress?

Stress is the normal human reaction that helps you adjust to new situations. When managed, stress can boost our alertness and motivation, and keep us in a state of readiness for danger.

A stress response can help your body work harder and stay awake if you have an important test coming up. Stress, however, becomes problematic when it persists for long periods without relief.

How we respond to stress:

The body's autonomic nervous system controls your heart rate, widening and narrowing of blood vessels, breathing, and more. This autonomic nervous system has to do with the stress response, called "fight-or-flight," the body's way of handling stress.

When a person has long-term (chronic) stress, continued activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on the body and makes us more susceptible and sensitive to stress-inducing circumstances.

Physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms develop.

Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Aches and pains.

  • Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing.

  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping.

  • Headaches, dizziness or shaking.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Stomach or digestive problems.

  • Weak immune system.

Stress can lead to emotional and mental symptoms like:

  • Anxiety or irritability.

  • Panic attacks.

  • Depression.

When people are faced with regular stress, they tend to indulge in unhealthy behaviors, such as:

  • Alcohol

  • Gambling.

  • Eating

  • Compulsion (sex, shopping)

  • Smoking.

  • Drugs.

What are some strategies for reducing and preventing stress?

  • Exercise. Something as simple as taking a short walk can make you feel better.

  • Consider what you have achieved at the end of each day, rather than what you haven't achieved. What has gone good with your day, not what has gone wrong. This is why I recommend this No Worries guided journal to my clients!

  • Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals. By narrowing your view, you will feel more in control of the moment. This can be as small as get out of bed by said time, put on clothes, start coffee... Make goals small and achievable. Make every small action with purpose, goodwill, love, and mindfulness.

  • Examine your values and priorities. How do you view and value happiness?

  • Practice gratitude. Again the guided journal is good for this.

  • Say no to additional irrelevant responsibilities.

  • Stay connected to people who lift you up and avoid other negative people.

  • Set boundaries with toxic people.

  • Keep a regular bedtime routine.

Stress is a part of everyday life. In general, short-term stress is harmless, but it can lead to a wide range of health problems when it lasts. It can also trigger physical and mental health issues.

Some of these techniques will help, including identifying triggers, developing coping and avoidance strategies.

If you are experiencing overwhelming stress and its affects, try speaking to a mental health professional.

Odell Terrell

Odell Terrell is a mental health counselor in Greensboro, NC. He graduated with a MS in Counseling from Divine Mercy University in Arlington, VA, and places an emphasis on working with spiritual integration, adults and adolescents, trauma, family and children, and grief and loss. Odell received his undergraduate degree from the University of St. Leo's in St. Leo Florida, with a degree in Psychology. He has spent his last 15 years working in the field of emergency services. It is in working with people in emergency situations, both patients and first responders, that Odell has learned how to deal respectively with people in crises mode, helping instill a sense of hope and healing. Odell is happily married, for 17 years, and is the father of 9 children and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his family and child therapy practice.

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