Stress is a fact of life. It can make life seem so much harder than it needs to be. It can also make us sick if we let stress get the best of us.
Going from military service to civilian life is a stressful situation. It’s a total change of pace. It might be nice at first, but it can suddenly seem impossible and overwhelming.
There are ways though, that you can deal with your stress that allow you to take control of your life. Best of all, these are all simple managing stress tips. Anyone can do it.
How Stress Can Damage Your Health
Some of the most common symptoms of chronic stress are irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia. Does any of these sound familiar?
Your central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of your fight or flight response. This response is what makes your body create stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol.
These hormones cause your heart to beat faster and send blood rushing to the areas that need it the most in an emergency. Places like muscles, heart, and other important organs.
This is all great if you are in an actual emergency, but when it’s just because you are freaked out, it causes more chaos. If the CNS doesn’t return back to normal once your brain realizes the problem is gone, the stress hormones still get created.
Too much stress can cause:
15 Ways to Manage Stress
Here are a variety of ways that you can manage stress. They are all really different. Hopefully, there is something here that will work for you.
Working out is often one of the best ways to relax your body and mind. It will also improve your mood.
At the very least, try to work out 3 to 5 times for 30 minutes a week. If you can do better, try for around 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise.
Focusing on setting fitness goals, will help stop you from giving up.
2. Try to Relax Your Muscles
When you’re stressed, your muscles get tense. Try loosening them up on your own by stretching, getting a massage, taking a hot bath or shower, or try getting a good night sleep.
3. Deep Breathing
You would be surprised at how much taking a few deep breaths can help you. Follow these 5 steps:
4. Eat Good Food
Eating a well-balanced diet will help you feel better in general. It will help control your moods, which should minimize stress.
Your diet should have vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein for energy. Do not skip any meals, it will put you in a bad mood.
5. Try to Slow Down
Modern life is so fast paced, sometimes we need to remind ourselves to slow down. Set some time aside for you to do nothing but daydream.
If you hate driving, go into the slow lane so you don’t have to deal with road rage. Break down big jobs in a bunch of little ones. This will make it easier to handle tasks.
6. Take a Break
You should plan some real downtime for yourself. It’s hard to make time for things that aren’t “productive”, but try some restful activities. Activities like meditation, yoga, Tai chi, prayer, listening to your favorite music, and spending time in nature.
7. Make Time for Hobbies
Have you not had a lot of time for your hobbies because of your military career? A great stress reliever are hobbies you enjoy. Even a small amount of time, like 15 to 20 minutes can help. Try reading, knitting, art, golf, watching a movie, doing puzzles, or play board or video games.
8. Talk About Your Problems
Everything seems worse when you try to take it on by yourself. People sometimes think that talking things out won’t help but it does. Talk to people you trust like family members, friends, a therapist, and others.
If you are too uncomfortable, try talking to yourself. It sounds silly but it’s called self-talk and we all tend to do it all the time. You have to make sure that what you are saying is positive, not negative. Say things like “I can do it,” instead of “I can’t do this.”
9. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine
If you can’t avoid these things, then at least try to reduce interacting with them. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, and they will increase your level of stress, instead of getting rid of it.
Alcohol is a depressant when you drink it in large amounts. In smaller amounts, it’s a stimulant. Basically, it doesn’t help you either way.
Instead, try drinking water, herbal teas, or natural fruit juices. You should always keep yourself hydrated because your body can handle everything a lot better, when hydrated.
10. Get Sleep!
Everything is so much harder when you are tired. Not getting enough sleep is a vicious cycle. Not getting enough sleep causes stress, but stress can also interrupt your sleep as thoughts swirl around your head.
Ways to help yourself relax enough to sleep, can start with making sure your room is a peaceful environment. Make sure there aren’t any reminders of the things that stress you out.
Avoid caffeine during the evening along with excessive alcohol consumption.
Instead, take a warm bath or read a book. That way your body can calm down. Try to go to bed around the same time. That way your body has a set schedule.
11. Keep a Stress Diary
Writing out your thoughts can be extremely helpful. Writing lets you to get out all your thoughts without being interrupted. You can write out how you feel and why.
If something didn’t go your way, write everything out and why you think it happened the way it did. By laying everything out, you can see the whole picture and digest everything at your own pace.
You can also write down what you think are your triggers and how often you come across them day to day.
12. Listen to Music
Sometimes listening to music can help you relax. Though you have to play calming music, not party music.
Calm music can have a positive effect on the brain and body, lowering blood pressure and reducing cortisol.
If you aren’t sure what to listen to, try classical music or nature sounds.
Do you know that old cliché “Laughter is the best medicine?” Well, they might be on to something.
Laughing releases endorphins that improve mood and decreases the level of stress hormones. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy.
Read a funny book, watch a funny movie, or see a comedy stand-up.
14. Focus On What You Can Control
It can be easy to feel like everything is out of your control, but there has to be something you can control. Even if it’s small.
See if there is anything you can change about your situation. If there isn’t, let it go.
If that’s too much for you, remember that you can control your breathing, your body, and how you use your time. Focus on that until you can calm down.
15. Learn to Say No
A lot of little stressors that build up quickly come from not saying no. It’s hard to say no. You don’t want to disappoint people or seem rude.
But, learning to say no will reduce your stress level and help you gain confidence.
We get that it can be hard to straight out say no. So instead, try saying some phrases that give you a reason to say it. An example would be, “I’m sorry, I'd love to do this but…”
Though lying is bad, a little white lie isn’t so bad, if it helps you feel better.
You are Still Going to Stress Out
Even if you use all of these tips, you will still stress out. These aren’t the cure all, but they will help you when stressful events happen.
Stressful situations will probably arise as you get acclimated to civilian life. Try to remember these tips when you feel the stress becoming too much.
See if there are any support groups that host other vets who are struggling with civilian life. Maybe the best managing stress tip is that you know you aren’t the only one that feels this way. You are not alone.