Stress is a normal aspect of life. It’s a mental, emotional, and physical responses to changes in our thoughts, body, or environment. When it helps us perform better in anything we’re doing, it’s called eustress, or good stress. Unfortunately, there is also another kind of stress, one that appears to be far more common, and it’s called distress, or bad stress.
Distress has been linked to a variety of health problems like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even wrinkles. While these health issues are often recognized as stress-induced or aggravated by stress, stress also has a powerful effect on our emotional well-being.
Four common emotional symptoms of distress are situational anxiety, depression, overwhelm, and moodiness. Let’s take a closer look at each of these symptoms and some simple ways to calm down when you feel everything is out of control.
You might experience situational stress when you’re in a new situation. For instance, you might feel situational anxiety when you’re giving a speech, at a job interview, or out on a date. You might feel intense anxiety or fear or terror. Stress might show up as a feeling of dread or impending doom, and it might also show up as shortness of breath, a pounding heart, or profuse sweating.
When you know that you’re going to be in a situation where you’ll feel stressed, you should take steps to prepare for the impending event. Dress up well, so that you feel less anxious. Take self-care measures, like using antiperspirants to stop nervous sweating from becoming too obvious. Rehearse the event in your mind in a positive, encouraging way.
When you’re feeling depressed you may have difficulty sleeping, lose your appetite, and have low energy levels. You may also have difficulty concentrating or even getting your work or your chores done.
If depression is chronic and ongoing, and if it’s accompanied by suicidal ideation, then the best thing you can do is to get professional help. Make an appointment with a psychotherapist to begin to work on finding meaning and purpose in your life.
If your depression is temporary, arising due to a feeling of disappointment with yourself or other people, then journaling about your experience helps you face the situation and come up with a constructive way of dealing with it. Another alternative is to discuss the issue with someone to brainstorm solutions to the upsetting problem.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, you find it difficult to think clearly. Your judgment is clouded, and you can’t make clear distinctions. You feel desperate and your mind jumps from one idea to another trying to figure out what to do. Ironically, the more you think about your situation, the more confused you become.
A simple way to deal with overwhelm is this step away from the situation. Go for long walks. Take the day off. Find something pleasant to focus on. When you have sufficient downtime, your thoughts recalibrate. In fact, if your break is long enough, you may even feel a resurgence of motivation to resolve your difficulties. Stepping away helps your mind slow down and your emotions to calm down. As a result, you see things in perspective and come up with meaningful solutions.
When you’re feeling moody, your emotions shift from one extreme to another. One moment you feel sad, then you feel manic. One moment you feel angry, then you feel resigned. Creative people, writers, poets, and artists, are often labeled as “mercurial.”
An effective way to deal with moodiness is proper diet and exercise. Eating small meals more often and avoiding foods and beverages like sweets, alcohol, and caffeine can help calm you down. Exercise, particularly strenuous exercise like running or swimming or lifting weights, can stabilize your emotions. Exercise is effective because it creates hormonal changes and stimulates endorphins.
In closing, the best way to cope with the negative effects of stress is to be able to recognize when you’re stressed in the first place. This can be easy to miss because you’re only focusing on your emotions or situation, mistaking them as the source of your negative thoughts and feelings. When you recognize your stressed response to people and circumstances, you can then step back and take simple, practical measures to regain your self-composure.