Have you ever had a day where nothing seems to go right?
You’re running late for work, and you can’t find your car keys. When you do manage to get to the office, you learn that a coworker calls out sick and your workload is doubled. But that isn’t the end of it. You come home from a difficult day at work only to find out that a family member is in the emergency room.
If you’ve ever had a day like this, then you’re no stranger to stress. We all have learned to cope with it at some point or another, but too much of it is not only taxing to our physical bodies, but it also wrecks our mental health.
Not only that, but managing our stress is an important component to controlling maladaptive daydreaming. That’s why we’re going to go through seven strategies you can use to reduce your stress levels.
Stress is our bodies’ response to perceived threats in our environment. Whenever we’re under stress, our bodies activate hormones that set in motion our fight-or-flight response – this is our instinct to stand our ground against the threat, or to flee.1
Possible sources of stress can come from just about anywhere. We might experience it when exposed to extreme temperatures, bright lights or intense sounds. Or, the cause can be an emotional one, such as a breakup or death in the family.1
Stress doesn’t always come from negative circumstances. We can experience it even when we’re excited about something, like starting a new job or moving to a new town. Regardless of the source, stress is meant to be a temporary condition. Our bodies can’t stay in this state for long without suffering long-term consequences.
The Risks of Stress
There are a number of ways that stress can show up in the body. While many signs are obvious, some are far more subtle. For the sake of our physical and emotional health, it’s important to be able to recognize these signs when they appear. Some of these symptoms include:
- dry mouth
- shortness of breath
- weight problems
- insomnia or interrupted sleep
- becoming socially withdrawn
- irritability and mood swings
- obsessive compulsive behaviors
- dermatitis, rashes, and allergies
- anxiety and panic attacks
- forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating2
It’s much harder to realize that we’re stressed when we’ve been coping with it for a long time. We learn how to adapt. The problem with this is, when we’re under stress for too long, we can run into a whole host of problems:
1. Our maladaptive daydreaming gets out of control.
It’s normal to use daydreaming as a source for comfort from time to time. But when we’re dealing with chronic stress, we may rely on it more than we should. Maladaptive daydreaming can become a huge risk at this point. For those of us who already have MD, stress can derail any attempts we’ve made to get it under control. Dealing with challenging circumstances makes the recovery process much more difficult.
2. We risk compromising our mental health.
Whenever we’re under stress for a long period of time, we subconsciously look for ways to cope. Unfortunately, not all of these ways are for our benefit. Not only are we more prone to addictive behaviors, but we’re also at an increased risk of mental illness. Anxiety, depression, and post-tramautic stress disorder are just a few mental illnesses that can be triggered by ongoing stress.2
3. Our immune system takes a hit.
Stress isn’t just limited to the mental realm – it affects us on a physical level too. Stress reduces the antioxidant levels in our body and weakens our immune system.3 Too much makes us more suseptible to infections, stroke, hypertension, and even autoimmune diseases. But the trouble doesn’t end there. Stress dramatically increases our risk of heart disease and cancer.2
4. We age faster.
If the above wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse. Stress damages our chromosomes, the structure of our DNA. These chromosomes eventually unravel, which speeds up the aging process in the body.4 This means that as long as we remain in an ongoing stressful state, we are shortening our lifespan.
7 Stress Busting Strategies
While we can’t avoid stress entirely, we can minimize its effects. Here are a few ways you can manage your stress.
1. Take a breather.
Does your stress feel overwhelming? Stop what you’re doing and take a moment to breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths will help you relax, and the nice part is, the effects are immediate. Bonus points if you add meditation to the mix. If you’d like, you can even use the breathing exercise I describe at the end of my article on the benefits of meditation.
2. Avoid too much ruminating.
When we obsess over what’s making us stressed, we risk falling into negative thought patterns. This only makes it more challenging for us to see solutions to our problems. If thinking about the problem isn’t helping you move forward in any way, there’s no point in wasting energy on it.
3. Handle one thing at a time.
When you are ready to tackle whatever issue is troubling you, be mindful of your approach. It’s best not to look at the whole problem at once, or you might get discouraged. Break it up into smaller tasks, and focus on the things that you can deal with first.
4. Walk it off.
Stress is easier to handle when we go for a walk. The exercise can help you gain a clearer perspective of your situation, and possibly give you new insights. Even better, nature is an excellent source of stress relief on its own. For the best results, find a quiet place where you can interact with the natural world. Explore a local nature trail or take a walk around the park.
5.Give yourself some TLC.
Sometimes a little self care can lift your spirits. Although you might feel tempted to binge on junk food, too much sugar, salt, and fat will only put your body under even more stress. Antioxidant-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and dark chocolate are perfect for improving overall health. You can also add foods like peanut butter, tofu, almonds, and green and Roobios tea to create an even more relaxing effect.
Another great option is aromatherapy. Essential oils like lavender, frankincense, and ylang-ylang are helpful for regulating stress. Add them to a bath or diffuse them into the air with an oil burner.
6. Do something fun.
A great way to manage stress is to do something you enjoy. This might include activities like arts and crafts, video games or puzzles. While this won’t rid us of our source of stress, it can keep us from getting trapped in negative thoughts.
7. Phone a friend.
You don’t have to tackle your problems alone. Reach out to a close friend and share what’s on your mind. This will prevent you from bottling up your feelings, which can cause more harm in the long run.
It’s normal to have stressful moments in our lives, but we have to be careful not to let them negatively impact our health. Prolonged stress does not do a body good, and its especially not helpful when we’re trying to control MD. Make sure you have strategies in place to help you through stressful times.
 Segal, Jeanne, Melinda Smith, Robert Segal, and Lawrence Robinson. “Stress Symptoms, Signs, Causes, and Coping Tips.” HelpGuide.org. N.p., July 2016. Web. 17 Aug. 2016.
 “Stress Effects.” The American Institute of Stress. The American Institute of Stress, n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2016.
 Greger, Michael. “Stress.” NutritionFacts.org. N.p., 10 Aug. 2016. Web. 17 Aug. 2016.
 Greger, Michael. “Does Meditation Affect Cellular Aging?” NutritionFacts.org. N.p., 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 July 2016.