Stress is defined as, “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.” At the most basic level, there are three types of stress: (1) Physical stress – including poor posture, excessive periods of sitting or standing and heavy lifting, (2) Chemical stress – including poor diet, prescription and over the counter drugs, pollution in the air, water and food, and chemicals in the skin and hygiene products commonly used, and (3) Emotional stress – including work related stress, family and relationships, and illness or death of a loved one. Stress itself is not an illness, but if it becomes excessive or prolonged, it can lead to mental and physical illness.

The symptoms of stress can manifest in a variety of possible signs and symptoms. Changes in behavior are common. This could mean difficulty sleeping, changes in eating habits (over eating or under eating), smoking or drinking more, avoiding friends and family, or sexual dysfunction. Symptoms could be physical, like fatigue, indigestion and nausea, headaches, sore tight muscles, back or neck pain or palpitations. Mental symptoms may present, such as difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness, memory loss or low self-esteem. Or symptoms may be more emotional, like irritability, anger, anxiousness, hypersensitivity or a feeling of numbness, listlessness or being drained.

The key to the ability to cope with stress is to first identify what your stressors are. This may sound like a simple task, but often we are unaware of just how much stress a relationship, a job or lifestyle is causing. One suggestion to help identify your own personal stressors is to carry a special notebook with you to record everything you do throughout the day, noting down how stressed you felt on a rating of 1 to 10 for each listing. After a few days, some patterns should begin to emerge. Notice, are your ratings always higher when you are working to a deadline, or dealing with a certain person, or are you just cramming too much in to your day?

Once you’ve identified your stressors, you must begin to think positively and relax. Just a bit of positive thinking can put you back on the path towards happiness and health. You must find ways to relax, and either reduce, remove or counter-act the stresses in your life.

To cope with physical stress, you must find a physical outlet for your stress. Chiropractic care and massage are two types of therapy that release the physical tensions of stress from the body. Exercise is also a good release, and it can be as simple as going for a walk. Yoga and Tai Chi are good choices as they focus on mental and physical aspects at the same time, while kick boxing or body combat can really help blow off some steam. It is also important to breath properly, which may sound simple, but many of us have irregular breathing patterns. Retrain your breathing so it is slow, deep and steady. Lastly, you must get enough sleep and be certain it is regulated so it is always within 1-2 hours of the same time daily.

Coping with chemical stress can be trickier than it sounds. First, take a good look at what you are eating, and begin to choose healthier options. All the processed, pre-packaged food commonly eaten today is filled with trans-fats and chemicals in the forms of artificial sweeteners, preservatives and flavorings. These are “technology” foods which are made in a laboratory and our bodies were not designed to process these unnatural substances. It is not just coincidence that the rise in obesity over the past 20 or so years has coincided with the rise in fake ingredients in our food supply. Second, you must consider what you absorb through your skin. If you read the ingredients in your lotion, shampoo or other cosmetics and hygiene products you use, you will soon realize you cannot even pronounce half the substances that you slather on your body on a daily basis. If it goes on your skin, it gets absorbed in to your blood stream and is carried throughout your body, so opting for natural and organic body products will reduce chemical stress on your body. Third, you should avoid tobacco, alcohol and caffeine as much as possible. These substances are not only toxic to the body in a variety of ways, but they are mood-altering and can heavily impact stress on the body (even if they temporarily seem to relieve stress).

Learning to cope with mental and emotional stress can sometimes be difficult. A good way to start is by taking time to for yourself to reflect on your day, meditate, read a book or just space out. Talking to a trusted friend or family member about what is troubling you and trying to work on solutions together is helpful. Or you may find a hobby you truly enjoy and take time daily or weekly to indulge yourself and escape from the usual routine.

Ultimately it all comes down to identifying your stressors, finding ways to counter act the different stresses you have, and making your personal de-stressors part of your regular routine. There are natural health solutions for coping with stress. Employ the tools given here and you too can begin to cope with stress successfully.