Stress is your body’s physical, mental and emotional response to challenging circumstances and demands in your life. Though some stress – known as eustress – can be positive by helping you focus and get more done, chronic stress can take a toll on your overall well-being and lead to health problems such as panic attacks, insomnia, high blood pressure and irritability.
Your Innate Stress Response
Humans evolved to react to potential threats by being more alert and on edge. A rush of stress hormones can cause physical symptoms such as sweating, increased heart rate and rapid, shallow breathing. Thanks to your fight-or-flight response, you might act instinctively without mentally processing what you’re doing. If you need to make an immediate decision, like slamming on your brakes to avoid hitting a pedestrian, it can be lifesaving. However, you might also be overly anxious about risks that don’t endanger anyone, such as a work assignment.
Because stress can affect everyone differently, an event you find profoundly upsetting or anxiety-inducing may not bother someone else. Still, that doesn’t mean your problems aren’t worth taking seriously. People with some dangerous or high-pressure jobs, like first responders and airline pilots, are more likely to struggle with chronic stress symptoms. You may also be more prone to developing chronic stress if you have never developed healthy coping mechanisms to help you relax.
Beneficial Ways to Manage Stress
One technique for dealing with stressful situations is to find an upside about them. For instance, if you find your stomach churning and your muscles tensing up when you think about interviewing for a job, visualize yourself arriving at your appointment. Picture all the tiny details, including what you’ll wear and how you’ll present yourself. In doing so, you can begin to envision the interview as an opportunity to showcase the knowledge and talents that make you an excellent candidate for the position.
Working with a therapist is another way to channel your stress in a more productive direction. A counselor can use their training to spot patterns of negativity in your life, including how you respond to stress. They may offer to teach you grounding exercises to use when you feel overwhelmed. If you’ve identified specific people in your life as anxiety triggers, a therapist can give you advice on how to set boundaries and be more assertive.
Since specific lifestyle factors can also contribute to stress, you can also evaluate your daily routine for things that may be detracting from your mental well-being. For example, if you are eating an unhealthy diet with mostly processed foods, switching to more fresh produce might help improve your mood. Similarly, if you routinely reach for alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, that could be a significant factor making your overall health worse.
Getting Help for Co-Occurring Disorders
Long-term, ongoing stress is often a warning sign of a more significant mental health problem, like anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. These “invisible illnesses” can sometimes be undetectable, even to the person who’s living with them.
New clients who arrive at Hope by the Sea undergo an initial evaluation of their symptoms performed by mental health and addiction specialists. Our clinicians will develop a personalized treatment plan based on your health history and needs. Many of the staff members at our family-owned rehab center have experienced struggles with substance use disorders and mental health challenges, so we understand the difficulties you are going through and will meet them with compassionate care. To learn more about recovering in California, reach out to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week.