How Stress Affects Your Body - And 5 Ways to Manage Stress Better
by Harley Therapy | Stress and Anxiety
Going through a stressful experience is difficult. Moods can swing wildly, you can feel anxious and socially withdraw, and you might not be able to cope with day-to-day life. Physical symptoms include fatigue, muscle tension and feeling flu-like.
Difficult and overwhelming experiences cause what is called ‘flight, fight, or freeze mode‘, or, more scientifically, an ‘acute stress response’. Fighting, fleeing, or freezing served us well when we were cave people faced with wild animals. And an acute stress response gives us the energy required to make fast decisions in the face of life-threatening things such as natural disaster, crime, and physical attacks.
Most stressful experiences don’t threaten our lives. But events like losing a job, being betrayed, or financial issues still see your body go into the same primal response. This can mean your response seems out of proportion to the event, leaving others (and even yourself) confused.
While the fight, flight or freeze response might be something you can’t control, what you do have power over is the amount of stress you generate in your life. In other words, you can choose a life that is less likely to trigger the response, or learn to acknowledge and manage your stress so that you are less reactive.
You can start with simple steps for managing stress:
- Mindfulness is a daily practice designed to help you stay focussed on the present and become more aware of how you are thinking and feeling.
- Progressive muscle relaxation is also proven to help.
- Self-care and exercise, both of which are increasingly evidenced-based ways to improve your mood and outlook.
- If your stress levels feel unmanageable, or you feel it’s slipped into an anxiety disorder or depression, consider talking to a professional coach or counsellor.
A counsellor for stress can help you to explore the underlying causes of your stress, gain self-understanding and insight, identify stress triggers and find coping strategies that are effective for you to manage stressful situations in the long-run.