Like most things in life, stress is all about finding a healthy balance between too much comfort and too much pressure.

Stress is something that we all experience at one point or another. It is typically present in our daily lives, even when brought on by pleasant circumstances like planning a vacation, getting pregnant, having a work promotion, etc. It is a particular feeling in that we don’t always feel its presence in the same way that we feel anger or sadness but its weight still presses on our shoulders.

However, contrary to popular belief, stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing; it can prompt us into action, push us to find new perspectives or apply the necessary pressure for us to succeed. Likewise, when the load becomes too heavy for us to bear, it can come crashing down on us, full force.

Like most things in life, stress is all about finding a healthy balance between too much comfort and too much pressure as well as learning coping strategies that allow us to navigate periods of high stress.

A major component to sensing stress lies in our physical bodies and physiological reactions. Your back muscles will likely be tighter after a chaotic work week than after a getaway to a caribbean island. Oftentimes, our bodies pick up on our stress before we consciously do and we can learn to use this to our advantage. Take two minutes out of your day to scan your body; are you tense? Where is this tension localized? Are you breathing deeply enough? Is your heartbeat too fast?

All of these questions give us information and allow us to take action. The connection and increasing awareness of the signals our bodies send us becomes a preventive measure for many physical health problems and also allows us to start developing an understanding of how our inner state has a direct impact in all areas of our lives.

When we ignore our body, mind and soul messages, and focus on finding only the external sources of our stress, we get disconnected from our inner wisdom and from that place is easy to adopt maladaptive coping strategies that are sustained by faulty thoughts about ourselves and life and are expressed in avoidant, numbing or even harmful behaviors such as addiction, aggression, destructive actions, etc.

Developing healthy coping strategies is possible and even easy, if you make the choice to engage in practices such as moving your body (exercise, dance, yoga, walks, etc), opening yourself to creative endeavors (painting, knitting, cooking, playing an instrument, making music, etc), daring to experience meditative practices (active meditation like walking in silence, sitting in silence or prayer, walking barefoot as you ground yourself in the earth, tai-chi, informal practices such as being mindful, and many others you can explore). Be aware that getting yourself into doing these activities might feel awkward initially, your habituated mind can resist and messages such as “I’m not good at this”, “this does not work”, and many other limiting thoughts around the same line can pop up strongly without warning. This is completely normal and it is useful to remember that the same way we learned unhealthy behaviors, we can unlearn and learn healthy ones.

Other Healthy Stress Reduction Practices:

  • Meditation
  • Self care
  • Therapy
  • Exercise

High levels of stress can be lowered by:

  • Improving time management
  • Getting more sleep
  • Healthy coping strategies