In 2014, statistics on stress gathered by the American Psychological Association found that 77 percent of American adults regularly experienced physical symptoms as a result of stress. Stress is the body’s reaction to mental or physical demands. Stress causes a physiological process, the release of chemicals such as adrenaline, that can become magnified as more demands are placed upon the body. The stress response system has been invaluable in human ancestral survival, built to improve performance in short bursts.
Fortunately for the human species but unfortunately for humans’ mental states, modern stressors tend to be less dramatic than a charging bear. This chronic nature of modern, long-term stressors actually lowers performance, and over time, it can lead to devastating effects on the body, such as a weakened immune system or heart disease.
There are a number of ways people cope with stress, some healthier than others. How someone manages stress has major effects upon how the stress affects them. Stress is simply a biological process that can result in either a positive, eustress, or negative, distress, response. As eustress, stress motivates, improves performance, and can elicit euphoria or excitement. Distress, on the other hand, occurs when individuals are overwhelmed by either large task loads or extended periods of unbroken stress, and it results in decreased performance, anxiety, and physical problems.
One’s outlook and their stress management ability helps to determine which of these stress states is invoked. Taking short breaks between tasks can be crucial to allowing the body to decompress and recover from stress. Breaks that include rejuvenating activities are optimal to improving how a person handles stress in the future. Luckily, there are several fun and enlightening ways to manage stressful days from home or the office and get one back to their best, centered self.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Negative stress often results from either dwelling on incidents in the past, worrying about the future, or both. The practice of mindfulness relieves this stress by focusing the mind on the present moment. The philosophy is that present focus is a skill that can be developed to calm the mind and get it task-focused, rather than worry-focused.
Two of the best ways to build strength in mindfulness are through regular mindful meditation and yoga. Mindful meditation has been practiced for more than 2,500 years, helping millions handle the difficulties that come with human consciousness. In the present, there is significant scientific evidence that mindful meditation not only reduces short-term stress but physically adapts the brain to better handle future stressful situations over time.
- Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness and Meditation
- How to Do Mindful Meditation
- Breath: A 30-Day Mindful Yoga Journey
- 15 Yoga Poses for Stress Relief
- Mindfulness Meditation: A Research-Proven Stress Reliever
- 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation
- Analysis of Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress
- How Mindfulness Changes the Brain of Depressed Patients
- The Power of Mindfulness
- Tips for Living a Mindful Life
A critical element to cultivating eustress and relieving distress is to remember to give the mind periodic breaks. Creative outlets work wonders for providing distractions from stressful thoughts and an outlet for built-up emotions. Creative stress-relievers can be anything from painting to sculpture to origami. Any creative pastime that requires some amount of focus can help to moderate stress.
- How to Relieve Stress With Art Therapy
- Health and Stress-Relief Benefits of Creating Art
- Adult Coloring Pages
- How to Knit for Beginners
- 15 Mentally Soothing Do-it-Yourself Projects
- Printable Color-by-Numbers Pages for Adults
- Online Color-by-Numbers
- How to Create Homemade Stress Balls
- Origami Instructions and Diagrams
Games and Puzzles
Similar to mindfulness exercises, games and puzzles relieve stress by temporarily drawing attention away from the stressors toward a present-focused, low-risk problem. The mind loves problem-solving, and the diversion of a stress-relieving game lets it actively rejuvenate itself. Games also train the mind to see problems from new perspectives, which can be useful when finding unique solutions to potential stressors.
- Free Rice Vocabulary Game
- USA Today Daily Crossword
- Jigsaw Explorer
- Five Mindful Games to Play With Kids
- 13 Solo Card Games to Play at Home
- Count the Sheep
- Daily Online Sudoku
- Online Solitaire
Everyone’s reactions to stress are individualized to their personality, and there is no single universal fix. It’s important for people to explore their personal anxiety triggers to determine how to transform them into positive and short-lived eustress responses. With continued work on personal growth, people can maximize their lives and learn to use stressful situations to their advantage.