Take an interactive QUIZ to assess your stress levels!
Everyone has stress, but did you know there are two types of stress? Positive stress is called ‘eustress.' Think of getting married or getting a promotion. Eustress is the positive response to the challenge, not the challenge itself. It’s usually short-lived, and yet can still be overwhelming.
Negative stress, the stress we usually think of when we talk about how ‘stressed out’ we are is ‘distress' – think of trauma, a divorce, death of a loved one. Again, it’s the reaction to the challenge, not the challenge itself.
High levels of distress and chronic distress are shown to contribute to illness. Why? Test results show that cortisol levels increase during distress. In fact, cortisol is known as the stress hormone. It’s released as part of the fight-flight-or-freeze reaction.
Cortisol is linked to learning and memory deficiencies, compromised immune systems, weight gain, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, and other physical illnesses. High cortisol levels are also linked to mental illness.
So, what do we do to reduce chronic distress and therefore cortisol levels? We develop distress tolerance skills. How do we do that? Let me count the ways….
- Self-soothing Kit. A self-soothing kit provides both comfort and distraction when you’re having a bad day. It helps to get you grounded and keep you grounded. Create a kit that uses all 5 of your senses – seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting. I have a way for you to get your hands on 65+ items to put in your own self-soothing kit.
- Smile. Did you know there’s scientific evidence behind fake-it-til-you-make-it? In other words, smile your way through it because it can make you happier. And, frowning can make you sadder. You probably can’t smile your way to happiness, but it can’t hurt.
- Daily Gratitude Journal. Write 10 things that you’re grateful for every day. If you can’t write 10, write 5. If you still can’t write 5 things to be grateful for, then write 5 things that didn’t go wrong. Example: “I didn’t get into a car accident today.”
- Exercise. This doesn’t have to be anything radical. It can be as simple as taking a walk or doing yoga. Choose something that you can continue to do on a continuous basis. Doing it outside in nature gets you bonus points.
- Hobbies. Find a hobby that gives you pleasure. If you don’t have any hobbies, you might try several things until you find something that you truly enjoy. And, just like exercise, make certain to choose something that you can continue to do.
- Prayer and Devotion. Start your morning with God and end your evening with Him, too. I start out in the morning asking for guidance, energy, and momentum, and everything that I’m grateful for – including my family and the day ahead. I also have a devotional that I read every day. It’s amazing how relevant the day’s devotion always is. I admit that I say my prayers while lying in bed, so I usually fall asleep saying my evening prayers, and never quite get to “Amen.” When I'm in real distress, I simply repeat, “Jesus,” over and over, and let the Holy Spirit do the talking for me.
- Meditate. Set time aside to meditate – practice your breathing. Start your day and end your day this way. I have to admit, that I wake up at 0500, so by noon I’m ready for a nap and I meditate my way to it, so I’m meditating 3x a day. I use an app on my phone, called, Calm. Empty your mind. Be certain to practice and observe your breathing. One breathing technique is 7-11. Breathe in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11 and repeat. The first technique I learned, and still use today, is called 4 square breathing. Breathe in for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Breathe out for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 4. Repeat.
- Church. Often when we’re depressed or struggling with a mental illness, we turn our backs on our church families. I’m so very guilty of this. I prayed my heart out; I cried out to God, and yet, I didn’t let my pastor, or my church family know I was struggling. I simply stopped going to the point that they thought I had moved. Attending church, also gives us opportunities to socialize in a safe place when we otherwise have difficulties in social settings.
Which technique will you try first to help reduce your stress?
Don't forget the interactive QUIZ on the website. Check to see how your stress level is affecting your health! And, get 65+ ideas to put in a self-soothing kit at the end of the quiz!