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4 min read

How to Reduce Stress From Life Changes

a man under stress

Most of us have to deal with life change at some point or another. This can be moving to a new city, getting married, getting divorced, having a child, losing a loved one, and many similar scenarios. When life shifts for us, it can create a stress response that affects both physical and mental health. In this article, we'll take a look at how changes in everyday life can affect us, and share ways to cope with stress that can protect and improve our overall mental health during these times.

How Life Changes Can Lead to Chronic Stress

As human beings, we require a balance of routine and novel experience. Routine is an indicator of safety, while new experiences keep us from becoming bored and disinterested in life. However, certain life changes (even positive ones) create a stress response that can put a strain on mental and physical health.

Most of us know about the fight or flight response, when the sympathetic nervous system kicks online in response to perceived stress. Stress hormone levels increase, as do heart rate and blood pressure. This system evolved to protect us from existential threats. If you were being stalked by an animal, the fight or flight response allows you the short burst of energy and focus to respond to the threat. The challenge is that the modern world is filled with stressors that prevent the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode) from kicking in, leading to the body becoming chronically stressed.

Chronic stress affects mental health as well as leading to physical symptoms like muscle tension, headaches, and gastrointestinal distress. In severe cases it may even lead to serious illness. This is why it can be important to create a plan to handle life's stressors.

Maintain balance with a healthy lifestyle.

One of the best ways to reduce stress is to build a solid foundation. That is, create a balance in your body that can protect against stress physically and mentally. This can be done through maintaining health with certain evidence-based beneficial lifestyle habits.

Avoid unhealthy habits.

First, avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking, and the overuse of alcohol or other substances. While these may feel like they can help reduce stress short term, in the long term they are not only physically unhealthy, they can also increase stress and lead to negative feedback loops.

Get regular physical activity.

An exercise routine can be extremely beneficial in managing stress over the long term. Physical activity doesn't have to be especially taxing, you can choose what type of moderate-intensity exercise is most enjoyable to you. This can be a dance group fitness class, regular walks, playing a team sport, a yoga class, or a combination of all of these. Regularly exercising is one of the most healthy ways to manage stress, and can offer health benefits as well.

Get enough sleep.

Adequate sleep time and sleep quality are often lacking. Good sleep hygiene is a way to improve sleep, which in turn leads to benefits like improved mood regulation, lower blood pressure, a more positive perspective, and greater mental well being. Some ways to get a good night's sleep include:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up the same time every day
  • Limit screen time and turn off screens an hour before bed
  • Keep bedroom cool and dark, and use it for sleep and sex only
  • Engage in meditation or deep breathing exercise before bedtime

Eat a healthy diet.

Eating a balanced and healthy diet can take some of the stress load off of your body, and reduce symptoms of certain gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome. Known a the "second brain" the digestive system can be a booster of or a strain on our mental health. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and veggies, protein, and healthy fats and try to limit highly processed foods.

Identify the sources of stress in your life.

Another way to reduce stress is to identify just what the stressors are in your life. When you understand why you are experiencing stress, you can then begin to take actionable steps in managing it. We may be able to recognize that our stress levels are high, but can also be at a loss as to why this is true. The first step to manage stress is to find out what is causing this stress, so that we can figure out ways to address these factors.

Connect with others.

Healthy connections and a strong social life can improve mental health and increase emotional well being. In today's world, it can be especially difficult to maintain strong friendships. If you find that social support is lacking in your life, there are ways you can get involved. Volunteer with a local nonprofit, join a community club or local meet up, or even look for online communities with shared interests.

Practice stress management exercises.

Mindfulness exercises are an excellent way to target the effects of stress on the central nervous system. There are a number of relaxation techniques that are effective, including breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, and more.

Start a stress journal.

Keeping a stress relief journal can be a good way to decrease stress levels. You can use a journal to jot down times you are feel stressed, keep track of the stress management exercises that are most effective for you, and take notes on your mental health in general.

Work-life balance and stress.

Make time for fun and relaxation in your life. We live in a grind culture, which can send stress levels through the roof and lead us to feel overwhelmed from time to time. Set aside time to exist in the present moment, get outside and enjoy a natural setting, and spend time with family members.

Seeking help for stress.

In some cases, we may need the support of a mental health professional in Austin to relieve stress levels. Chronically stressed individuals may develop mental illness like major depressive disorder or an anxiety disorder. In these cases, stress management may be better supervised by a therapist who can offer greater support and evidence-based therapeutic techniques to relieve symptoms.

Stress Relief for Greater Well-Being in Austin, TX

Sometimes it takes more than deep breathing to relieve stress in your life, especially during times of life transition. Therapy can offer tools and support to help you cope with stressful situations, manage feelings, and learn to more effectively deal with perceived stress.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offer both online therapy and in-person sessions that fit easily into any busy schedule.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Austin therapist to help you cope with stress, build a more positive attitude, and increase overall well being.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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