We all deal with life stressors that can stem from work, family, finances and a host of other daily situations that pop up unexpectedly.

Unfortunately, it is inevitable that we will all experience stress at times. What is most important is how we deal with the stressors that invade our lives. If we allow stress to build up it can have serious physiological consequences on both your mental and physical health.

Symptoms of stress can be emotional, physical, cognitive and/or behavioral. Symptoms can include:

  • Agitation/Frustration
  • Difficulty relaxing your mind
  • Constant worrying/Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as upset stomach, diarrhea and constipation
  • Acne
  • Muscle tension
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased immunity
  • Chest pain and rapid Heartbeat
  • Nervousness and shaking
  • Inability to focus
  • Negative thoughts

That is just to name a few, there are several more!

Before you can deal with stress you have to be able to identify what is causing it. Identifying stressors can help you avoid them (if possible) or employ tactics that can help you better cope with that particular trigger.

I would like to share my personal story on how stress can take a toll on your body. Back in 2013, I unexpectedly lost one of the closest family members I had, a cousin who was more like a brother to me. I thought I was coping just fine and getting by taking one day at a time until one night I woke up in the middle of the night and my heart felt like it was about to literally beat out of my chest! I had never experienced this before and I thought I was having a heart attack! I went to the ER had an EKG and everything came back fine.

This was my first panic attack but at that time I wasn’t aware that this would continue for 3 more years on and off again.

On top of the panic attacks I also started to have really bad acne which caused me to not want to go anywhere. If I did go out, I refused to go anywhere without putting on some sort of make-up which I never wore before on a regular basis. I could not figure out what was going on with my body and it was completely frustrating which lead to even more stress.

Eventually, I got fed up and started to do some research on panic attacks. Through my research, I learned what foods to stay away from, how to calm myself when I felt an attack coming and also that I needed to find out what was triggering my panic attacks. So I began to track when they occurred and I discovered every time I had an attack it was shortly after having some reminder of the cousin I lost. It could be his birthday, the anniversary of his death, the holiday seasons, his picture, or anything that reminded me of him.

I thought to myself…..how can I avoid this trigger? The trigger was my own thoughts, how can I get away from my own thoughts???

Overtime, I got really good at calming myself, taking deep breaths and avoiding caffeine which seemed to agitate my anxiety and lead to more attacks. The attacks eventually slowed and ceased and I have been panic attack free since 2016. I also believe that relocating to Texas helped a lot because there weren’t constant reminders of him everywhere like it was back home in Illinois. My acne cleared up about 5 months after moving to Texas.

Now I know this is more of an extreme cause of stress but if I had not taken control of the situation and identified my trigger then I may very well still be having attacks.

Chronic every day stressors can build overtime and can have the same effect as one big stressor.

In order to deal with stress in a healthy way, try to include some of the following into your routine.

Take Care of Yourself!

  • Eat a healthy well balanced diet full of fruits, veggies, lean meats, whole grains and consume plenty of water.
  • Exercise on a regular basis. It is recommended to get at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.
  • Get plenty of sleep. You should aim for least 7-9 to hours of sleep a night.

Take a Mental Break!

  • Take some quiet time for yourself and go for a walk, get a massage or take a nice relaxing bath.
  • Practice Meditation. Meditation is the process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. It may be difficult in the beginning but overtime it will be easier to clear your mind.
  • Take a break from social media. Although social media is a great way to stay connected to family and friends, it can also be mentally overwhelming at times.
  • Think positively and avoid people who constantly talk negative and bring drama to your life.

Talk to Someone

  • Share your problems with a person you can trust. Speak with a parent, close friend counselor or pastor.
  • Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. Holding in your feelings can lead to an emotional blow-up. Communicating your feelings will be bring relief and help to reduce the buildup of stress.

Get Organized

  • Create a daily to do list and prioritize those things that need to be done and identify things that can be delayed. If you have an important task to complete get it done first, otherwise you will be thinking about it all day.
  • Use your time wisely. A lot of times we end up causing ourselves more stress because we waste time on things that are not necessarily a priority. Set aside a time to get important things done and a time for relaxing that way the two will not overlap.

Learn To Say NO!

  • Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking that you have to help everyone who asks you for something. In some cases, you have to put yourself first in order to avoid overextending yourself.

Avoid Drugs and Alcohol

  • Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having a nice glass of wine after a long day. But if this becomes I NEED a glass of wine or some other vice every day because I am stressed out then this is a symptom of a bigger issue. You need to address the reason why at this point because excessive drinking or drug use can lead to even bigger problems in your life!

It is important to try to create balance in your life. A balanced life allows you to dedicate time for work, relationships with family and friends, relaxation and fun.  

Although there will be phases in your life where balance may not be so easy to achieve, always remember that it is okay to just take a break sometime!! I have to reminder myself this at times.

Find Health in Every Day,

Dr. Lindsay