"Toxic Stress" and How To Deal
Explain to me how this statement is useful to someone like me? A walking Virgo stereotype. On edge, anxious, anticipating the worst, overwhelmed... Stress is ingrained into my being. And how could it not be? The world is after-all, a pretty stressful place.
Stress is defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. It's our body's response to pretty much anything that needs our attention. And yes, everyone experiences it. Even that chill guy you're dating that "hates drama". Whatever, bro.
Most people see stress as a way of life. It's just there, taunting us, letting us know we can feed it, give it fuel, entangle us in its anxious web. NO THANKS.
But here's the thing: A little bit of stress is totally fine. It's good for us. Keeps us on our toes. A lot of stress on the other hand...that's just toxic. And thus, toxic stress is born!
What is Toxic Stress?
There's a big difference between stress and toxic stress.
Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, M.D., the chief medical officer for American Addiction Centers says: "Normal stress will cease after the occurrence is over — it tends to be self-limiting" while "Toxic stress takes the natural, involuntary stress response we all have, and extends it for a period of time."
Unlike regular stress, situations that cause toxic stress feel all-encompassing, like you can't escape at any time. This type of stress often involves big life changes or deep trauma.
Different types of stress affect your body in different ways. Everyday stresses can make you more alert, they can actually boost your brain health. But of course, consistent stress takes a huge tole on your mental and physical health.
If you are experiencing toxic stress, it's important to first, acknowledge it, and second, try to find ways to cope. Ongoing stress has horrible affects on our body and self-esteem. And frankly, it's no way to live.
How To Deal
We all handle our sh*t in different ways. Some of us meditate not me. Some go on a long walk, drink a cup of tea, or blow off steam by going out with friends.
The duration of our stress can be helped by incorporating various coping skills into daily practice.
A few years back I worked with an overthinking expert to get my intensely toxic habit under control. We discussed thoughts and what they represent.
The truth is, our greatest asset is our ability to decide which thoughts deserve our attention. Funny that we always seem to choose the negative, paranoid thoughts over the warm, optimistic ones. Adopting the right attitude can deeply impact how you deal with stress.
So here are some simple coping mechanisms that I personally find useful!
1. Establish a daily mindfulness and self-care routine
Could be skincare, meditation, journaling. Yah it seems like another thing you have to do, but practice makes perfect.
2. Go on a walk everyday
It could be for 10 minutes or 2 hours. Just get outside, observe your surroundings, experience nature!
3. Connect with a community who gets you
I highly recommend Facebook groups or apps that have your interests. This has been a godsend for me! I love forums and have made some really great friends during moments I felt really alone with my trauma.
4. Lay off drinking for awhile
Fun fact: Alcohol worsens stress. Ever heard of hangover anxiety? It's a real thing and it sucks.
5. Take a social media *and screen* break
Don't make me parent you here. You know you're addicted, so take a break!
6. Help others
Reach out to a new community or organization. See how you can be there for them right now. Research shows that people who help others are often more resilient.
7. My personal favorite: Say and visualize "STOP"
Shoutout to my therapist for this. She told me whenever I'm stressed, to close my eyes, picture a stop sign, and observe its surroundings. Then say "STOP" out loud. Filter some positive thoughts into my head, and stop the bad ones.
And if none of these are working for you, DO NOT BE AFRAID to seek help from a professional. I personally have two therapists, an acupuncturist, and an astrologer. Because I like to stress!
But I know how hard it is on my body, how it affects my wellbeing...how it ruins my happiness. And frankly, I'm tired of giving it my energy. So join me in making some serious changes in 2023. And I'm here if you need a friend! Leave a comment below!
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