Stress: The Silent - and sometimes not so silent - Body Wrecker
Many people are living with chronic high levels of stress, many times underestimating its magnitude and impact.
There are MANY stressors that on a daily basis affect us: relationship issues (even indirectly, our friends or family experience them and we get affected to a degree as well), work issues (deadlines, meetings, public speaking, demanding hours, tense work environment), housing issues (roommates, building matters, expenses), finances, etc. Stress is usually an accumulation of small triggers, and not just an isolated event.
We are not always cognizant of how many different things are impacting us, and thus, how much our body is working extra to adjust and manage. People don’t realize how stressed they are; they feel “normal” but internally the body is working hard to keep up.
There are a lot of internal mechanisms that get activated when the body encounters worries or difficult situations. There are many internal “filters” that are no longer able to cope even on everyday situations: some people lash out against family, peers, or bosses in ways they wish they could take back; some have the opposite reaction and “blank out” in an exam, a meeting, or presentation; some experience anxiety to a degree that symptoms mimic stomach, cardiac, or respiratory issues.
Think of it like this – you are a cup. Stress is water. Every time you experience a stressor, your cup fills up a little bit, and your capacity to hold any more diminishes. Everything is fine until you hit capacity and then the next stressor, no matter how big or small, causes a spill (which might manifest as an outburst, or a panic attack, or an overwhelming need to eat a donut).
How do we reduce our overall stress level?
The first step is to become more aware of how your body is coping with everyday activities and situations (relationships, work, finances, etc.), and proactively trying to restore that internal balance. One of the most efficient ways to do this is using a paced breathing technique, breathing being the #1 body regulator. Another way is trying activities that improve your mood to balance out the negative impact of stressors; and as powerful, is not letting things bottle up inside you: talking to family and friends, and/or exploring and processing feelings and situations by journaling about them.
Using Optimalist app and journal
The Optimalist app and journal are tools to help people become more aware of their overall stress levels and inform them on the impact of their daily activities. These tools are grounded in cognitive behavioral and evidence-based studies to reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing.
By keeping tabs on your stress level, you can take proactive steps to manage it (i.e., let some water out), and help avoid those spilling situations.
Using Optimalist, you can manage your stress by:
Understanding how each activity affects us, positively and negatively (using the app and journal to gain this understanding)
Using the app's breathing pacer to optimize any activity
Mindfully choosing an activity to rebalance our physiological stress. The intentionality is a key aspect to boost mood and reduce stress. For example, choosing to journal about our day and highlighting the positive things that happened will make us feel better and more fulfilled. Using the app to understand how different activities affect us will help us make better choices and include healthier habits in our everyday life.
Getting an objective measurement (app), which gives us a sense of control and productivity, and listing tangibles goal to work towards (app and journal).
Guest Writer: Dr. Maria Bruce