By Remy Marin
We all know that stomach clenching, neck cramping, finger twitching feeling of stress. It creeps up on us before a big exam or when there’s too many responsibilities piled on your plate, and makes finishing everything that much harder.
When you think about it, it’s weird that stress, an emotional response, is such a full-body affair. I mean, why do you start sweating and tensing up because of school work? Because of family? Because of traffic? It seems so random, right?
What Is Stress?
I learned in my psychology class that stress is actually a response to a challenge change in the environment and is completely natural. That means it’s not always bad to feel a little stress, because that feeling is what gets you going and powers you through tough times.
So if you’re wondering why stress has such a bad reputation nowadays, it’s because stress can become a negative thing when it’s long-term. So feeling a little jumpy during your driver’s text? NBD. Constantly feeling tense because of all the schoolwork and activities that are endlessly piled up? That’s where the trouble starts.
When you start to feel stressed out, it means that the events in your life are sending signals to your brain that then activate the nervous system and hormones like adrenaline. This is what causes your body to react, especially kicking up your heart rate, making you sweat, causing nervous ticks like nail biting, and giving you the feeling of butterflies in your stomach. This is called the stress response.
Over time, if stressful situations become long-term, the body goes from sweating a bit to having significant signs of stress overload. Symptoms of this include:
- Moodiness and Irritability
- Stomach aches, headaches, and chest pain
- Sleeping problems
- Depression or sadness
- Muscle tenseness and pain
Fight It Off
Feeling stressed out is not fun, and it can take a huge toll on your body. So if you’re starting to feel the pressure, there are a few things you can do to fight off the pain.
- Relax. This may seem obvious, but it’s so important to take the time to let your body unclench and let go of the stress. Yoga is a great way to do this, along with meditation and exercising.
- Go to sleep. Feeling sleep deprived only makes stress worse, so make sure to get in your 8 hours every night. It’s the best way to take care of your body and soul.
- Unclench. When you’re sitting at your desk, plugging away at textbook notes or an essay, pause and take a quick check of your body. Are your shoulders up by your ears? Is your back hunched over? Are your teeth grinding? If so, take a few deep breaths and let your body relax.
- Reassess you life. I was always the queen of overscheduling myself, and though I still do it, I’m trying to work on giving myself some down time rather than taking every little opportunity, and that has made a huge difference.
- Drop the little things. You can’t take on every responsibility, and you can’t always be perfect. So don’t let it get to you – accept your limits, give yourself a break and let yourself enjoy life.
It’s impossible to avoid all stress, but don’t let it build up and bring you down! Listen to what your body is telling you, and use that to take care of your body and soul.
Last reviewed May 2018 by Tara Cousineau, PhD