10 Tips to Reduce Stress
The COVID-19 pandemic added stress to our lives, which affects not only our mental health, but physical health and emotional well-being. Everyday routine stress, stress brought on by life changes (including those caused by a global pandemic), and even traumatic stress affect each of us in different capacities and different severities. Awareness surrounding stress is especially important this year, as new and higher stress levels due to the pandemic led to an increase in eating disorder behaviors around the nation.
What Are Common Stressors in Life?
Some of the most common stressors include:
- Stress at work or at school
- Stress related to family and relationships
- Financial stress
- Stress of moving or changing jobs
- Not getting enough sleep
- Stress over a life transition (such as having a new baby, a divorce, or a death)
These stressors can throw us off course in life, and while some of these stressors are unavoidable, many are not. While we cannot avoid stress in our lives, we can control how we cope with it.
How Does Stress Impact Eating Disorders?
Stress affects us in many ways including the following:
Physical symptoms — Mental and emotional stress can lead to physical symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal symptoms. It can also make one more likely to suffer from eating disorder behaviors like bingeing and purging.
Immune system — With physical exhaustion being closely linked to mental exhaustion, when individuals experience burnout, they will often be tired and more susceptible to getting sick. Further, when we neglect our bodies by not getting adequate nutrition, engaging in negative social interactions, or not acquiring adequate sleep on a nightly basis, health problems can occur.
Eating disorders — Many experienced the physical effects of stress firsthand during the pandemic. 62% of people in the United States with Anorexia Nervosa saw their eating disorder symptoms worsen due to levels of high stress. Further, almost one in three Americans living with Binge Eating Disorder saw a worsening of symptoms during this period of time.
High levels of cortisol enable us to work under pressure for a short amount of time, but over time our bodies become depleted of energy and our immune systems become weakened. When we are experiencing emotional turmoil, our cortisol levels go up, putting our bodies under stress. If the stress response goes on for too long or becomes chronic, such as when the source of stress is constant, or if the response continues after the danger has subsided, those same life-saving responses in your body can react to suppress immune functions, digestion, sleep cycles, and reproductive systems, which may cause them to stop working normally.
Stress and Mental Health
The brain is a muscle in the sense that it requires energy in the form of nutrition and rest in the form of sleep. Our brain, although not technically a muscle, can also be overworked.
Individuals who are under chronic mental or emotional stress are more likely to experience a number of physical ailments and mental health symptoms, including anxiety and depression. A high level of anxiety is also strongly linked with an increased risk for eating disorders. For those diagnosed with both anxiety and an eating disorder, symptoms are usually more severe, and recovery is often more difficult.
10 Ways to Manage Stress
We can’t fully escape stress in our lives. What matters most is how you handle it. The best thing you can do to prevent stress overload and the health consequences that come with it is to be aware of your triggers and learn how to manage them in a healthy way.
Here are 10 ways to manage stress:
- Set realistic goals and keep track of them.
- Find a way to incorporate any type of movement into your day and keep it as stress-free as possible.
- Practice mindful eating, using all of your senses at each meal.
- Aim to sleep 8 hours a night.
- Engage in healthy, positive relationships that don’t drain you.
- Engage in an activity that makes you happy/find a hobby.
- Stay connected with people and try not to isolate.
- Learn your stress triggers and write them down.
- Avoid negative or “toxic” people and situations.
- Get comfortable spending time alone to help you “reset.”
One of the best tips we can share is that you set priorities. Think about what you value most in life and what is most important and prioritize those areas. The rest can wait.
Another strategy to reduce stress is to learn how to let go of perfectionism. Perfectionism and eating disorders often go hand in hand. Let go of the need to do everything perfectly, to look perfect, and to be perfect.
Get Help for Stress and Eating Disorders
Life under chronically high stress levels is brutal and takes a toll on the mind and body. However, there are periods of life when chronic stress is unavoidable. If you’ve become overwhelmed by high stress levels and would like to learn how to reduce it, we can help at Center for Discovery. Every day, we help individuals find new ways to cope and to thrive with a variety of treatment options for all people.
At Center for Discovery, we’re passionate about providing compassionate care that utilizes the very best evidence-based treatment options. For more than two decades we’ve helped thousands of patients discover their path to the full and rewarding lives they deserve. Lasting recovery can start today. For more information, please visit: https://centerfordiscovery.com.