How to deal with long-term stress or chronic stress
When I have to deal with a problem, I often ask myself the question, “Will this be a problem in an hour? Will this be a problem in a day? Will this still be a problem in a week, a month, a year?”
Often the answer helps me to clarify how much attention I should be giving a problem. Sometimes I can obsess over things (are you like this?) and can give minor disruptions too much head space. Unfortunately for me, at this time I am dealing with quite a bad problem that has been “dragging on” for about 8 weeks now and is causing me significant stress.
What are some signs of long-term stress?
These will vary, depending on who you are, your age, your day-to-day tasks and the stress you are under. For me, I have been dealing with some symptoms such as:
- Lack of appetite
- Feelings of anxiety when I wake
- Anxiety throughout the day
- Feelings of being “on edge”
- Trouble sleeping and feeling constantly tired
Some other signs of stress include
- Interference with your judgment, causing you to make bad decisions
- Seeing difficult situations as threatening
- Reduction of your enjoyment and constantly feeling “bad”
- Feelings that your heartbeat and breath are going faster
- Sweating more, or feeling cold
- See a full list of stress symptoms here
How to deal with long-term stress
Let’s face it, when you feel sad and stressed, it’s hard to feel positive about anything. There are some things you can do to ease your stress.
“Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress, but you don’t have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits,” according to Help Guide. “Just about any form of physical activity can help relieve stress and burn away anger, tension, and frustration.”
Engaging socially, avoiding new “unnecessary stress factors”, altering your situation, adapting to the stressor and simply accepting the things you can’t change are also ways to cope. Making time for fun and relaxation is another way to ease feelings of long-term stress, according to The Guide.
So, what is chronic stress?
According to the Center for Studies on Human Stress, chronic stress “is stress resulting from repeated exposure to situations that lead to the release of stress hormones.” They suggest that this type of stress causes “wear and tear on your mind and body.”
When our stress response system is overused, “This overuse may contribute to the breakdown of many bodily systems. Problems arise when we are repeatedly exposed to the same stressor of many different stressors for an extended period of time.” When this happens, they say, “we can fall prey to the effects of chronic stress.”
What are some of the effects of long-term stress on the body?
The effects can be quite serious and may range from psychological issues to heart problems. “Over the long term, people who react more to stress have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Psych Central. This risk particularly is linked to people who tend to be excessively competitive, impatient, hostile, and move and talk quickly.”
How can you fix long-term stress?
There are many ways, but here are my top five picks.
This is effective and many countries offer free counselling in certain circumstances. It’s important to find a counsellor that is accredited, qualified and one that you get along with. Personality clashes can hinder your progress, so don’t be afraid to “shop around”.
Everybody should meditate every day. Of course, most of us don’t. If you are a newbie to meditation, I strongly recommended the Vipassana technique, which I go into detail about here. If you would like some tips on getting into meditation, check out Making meditation fun: meditation on a spiritual place.
Seeking out friends and family
Stay connected to those that you love, even if it’s difficult at this time. Spending time with people who care about you enriches the soul and is a free, effective way to heal when you are suffering from chronic stress.
Treat yourself to some new music, or rediscover some old tunes that you love. Go for a run (if you are up for it) and download a bunch of new tunes to keep you motivated. If you are feeling really sad, it can help to listen to sad songs but set yourself a limit. Cry it out and move on.
Self-care and nurturing
It’s so important to care for yourself. When you are feeling bad, there are lots of ways to nurture yourself. Have a look at my post How to nurture yourself when you’re feeling bad for a few ideas and make your own list of things that cheer you up.
Author and speaker Joyce Meyer says
“Getting stress out of your life takes more than prayer alone. You must take action to make changes and stop doing whatever is causing the stress. You can learn to calm down in the way you handle things.” (source)