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WELLNESS | Mental Wellness: Stress Management

Dr. Rheinchard Reyes - Friday, September 22, 2017 | Comments (0)

It’s safe to say that many of us become too familiar with the word ‘stress’ very early on in life. Although a natural reaction to life’s demands, stress can manifest itself often in physically painful (headache, backache, stomach ache, muscle tightness, and more) and/or emotionally taxing ways (anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, and such).

Some of us are so preoccupied with life’s everyday demands and distractions that we seldom stop to think about the state of our mental health and stress management. What IS mental wellness anyway? Does stress have a direct impact on our physical health and wellbeing? If so, what can be done to aid in stress management? We will answer these questions and explore stress’ impact on the mind and beyond.

What is mental wellness?

Mental wellness is comprised of emotional, psychological, and social well-being. As defined by the World Health Organization, mental wellness consists of “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Stress’ effects on the body

Our bodies are equipped with a "fight-or-flight" response which signals the body to release a series of hormones, such as cortisol, at the sign of any perceived threat. These hormones cause a spike in heartrate and blood pressure and are meant to readjust to normal levels once the threat disappears. However, many find that this readjustment hardly ever takes place due to the stresses of modern life (preoccupation with paying bills, meeting deadlines, relationship issues, etc.), causing serious future health complications.

Below are common expressions of stress:

  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Backache 
  • Muscle tightness
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety
  • Anger 
  • Depression
  • Tension
  • Forgetfulness
  • Fatigue
  • Impatience

Stress management

Before we can tackle stress relief, it’s important to first observe what sends stress levels soaring. Each individual will experience different symptoms on different levels of intensity. Once you’ve identified what your triggers are, you can think of ways to try and manage them. If you that elevated heartrate and hyperventilation are your main or most immediate reactions, you could start with breathing exercises to prevent stress from escalating. A healthy diet, regular exercise, proper sleep hygiene, and setting aside leisurely time for yourself all contribute to your overall wellbeing, which can mitigate stress’ negative effects.

Much of stress management starts with the understanding that you are not alone and seeking support during overwhelming times is a necessary aspect of life. Speaking with a friend, relative or counselor and venting your feelings to can help bring your mind to a more relaxed state. Furthermore, healthy coping practices such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing and spending time in nature have proven to be highly beneficial when it comes to managing stress levels. 

Stress management is an ongoing practice and one that isn’t mastered overnight. You may start by trying one or two healthy coping strategies, like the ones mentioned above, and practicing these until they become habit. Remember that stress is a normal aspect of everyone’s lives and there are numerous resources to assist in managing high stress levels such as the National Institute's of Mental Health's article 5 Things You Should Know About Stress.

Sources:
  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-relief/hlv-20049495
  • https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/basics.htm
  • https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health/index.html

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