Managing Life Changes with Minimal Stress

Updated: Mar 29

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Change is inevitable in life. Whether we want it or not, change is a constant in life.

Researchers have identified fear as the main reason people resist change. Change forces uncertainty upon people's lives. Change can be scary and uncomfortable and can be a source of stress.

How Does Stress Affect You?

There are many ways that stress can affect you physically, emotionally, and behaviourally Here are some of the ways that stress can affect you.

1. Emotional

Stress may affect your emotions. Some of the more common emotional manifestations of stress include:

* Depression

* Irritability

* Anger

* Mood swings

* Anxiety and worry

* Feeling overwhelmed

When you are stressed, experts say you tend to react to small things in a big way - in other words, problems seem bigger than they actually are. Each issue you have to deal with, no matter how small, can feel like the straw that broke the camel's back.

2. Physical

The effects of stress on the body are becoming more and more well known. These may include headaches, digestive disorders, weight gain, and even hair loss.

* Headaches caused by stress are said to be tension-type headaches, or TTH. Medical professionals say that TTHs result from circulatory fluctuations and muscle tension.

* Weight gain can result from stress, perhaps due to the overeating some sufferers engage in to cope. It could also be cravings for sugar and other carbohydrates, said to be caused by stress, that add the weight on. Fat that has accumulated around the abdominal area is said to be stress related - a stressed individual may find him or herself able to lose weight but unable to lose the "stress fat" around his or her middle.

* Digestive disorders can be a sign of stress. These can range from abdominal pain to chronic diarrhea.

* Hair loss may also result from chronic stress.

* Heart disease is being linked to stress. The heart and overall circulatory system may be affected by stress to the point of exacerbating or even causing disease or dysfunction.

* Insomnia is another physical problem that is linked to stress.

* Susceptibility to illness may be a physical effect of stress - experts say that chronic stress exhausts the immune system, leaving you open to infection and sickness.

* Chronic pain that is difficult to identify may result from chronic stress. Back and neck pain are the most common types of stress-related pain, but headaches (noted above) and joint pain may be stress related as well.

3. Behavioral

In adults and children, stress is often exhibited via behavioural changes. Behavioural stress may manifest as:

* Excessive anger

* Lashing out verbally or physically at family members or pets

* Spending inappropriate amounts of money

* Drinking alcohol

* Smoking

* Gambling

* Staying up very late at night, sleeping very late in the morning, or otherwise keeping unusual hours

* Withdrawal from activities you once enjoyed

* Withdrawal from family, friends, or any social activity

It may not seem like something you'd have to work to identify, but stress can be subtle. It is especially important to learn the signs and symptoms of stress in children, since adults often assume children's behaviour is simply a discipline issue.

While few things are more certain in life than change, it does not necessarily make dealing with change any easier. When change comes your way, you might need some stress management techniques to help get you through it.

Stress Management Techniques:

1. Let yourself feel the sense of loss, grief, hurt, anger, pain, or other emotions that the life change brings on. It may be a costly mistake in terms of your emotional and even physical health if you stifle your feelings or tell yourself you "shouldn't" be feeling the things you do. Go ahead and let yourself experience the emotions, and don't judge yourself.

2. Don't wallow in the negative emotions that the change has resulted in. While honestly experiencing the feelings is healthy, dwelling on them for a long time (years, perhaps) and allowing them to impact your health and happiness is not optimal. Consider seeking professional help in letting the feelings go after experiencing them if required.

Journaling can be an effective way of managing emotional difficulties.

3. Try to see the life change in a positive light. Go ahead and embrace the change rather than trying to hide or run from it. Accept it, and you may find a sense of freedom. View the change as a door opening to new opportunities. Now is your chance, embrace the opportunities that are presented to you!

4. Allow yourself time to rest and recover. It is okay to say "no" to activities to prioritise YOU and your needs. Excessive sleeping can be a sign of serious depression but getting some extra rest during a time of upheaval and change may actually be healthy and help you cope better.

5. Remember who you are. Your identity, interests, life goals, and mission are important to remember during times of change. They are like your anchors. A life change may actually bring on a reassessment of these things which can be healthy, too. Maybe you need to face some fears and anxieties you have about change in general. Now is the time to do it.

Things to Avoid

It's also worth noting some not-so-healthy ways of coping with life changes and the stress that may bring. Some destructive coping strategies to avoid include:

* Drinking alcohol

* Smoking

* Spending money on things you don't really need

* Gambling

* Overeating

* Starving yourself

* Procrastination

Changes forces you to grow as a person. It is a catalyst to evaluating what is important in your life.

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”– Charles Darwin

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