All that you need to know about stress and stress management

What is stress?


My favorite definition is this: “Stress is a normal biological reaction to a potentially dangerous situation”. This reaction is called a "fight-or-flight" response.


Years ago, it has helped humans to survive, while of course, nowadays living in a dynamic and chaotic world, this definition changed a bit and now it’s about many other triggers, not only about danger. Now you may face stress when having a conflict situation, facing uncertainty or any other problems.


Even though stress is not only about danger, but the effect over your body is still the same – as if you would be in a dangerous situation, preparing to fight or flight.


Types of stress


There are few types of stress, but I think the most important is to know the difference between acute and chronic stress.


Acute stress is the most common type of stress. It’s quite strong, but usually doesn’t last long. It’s your response to a trigger. Usually, this type of stress is not dangerous, some people say that it can even be helpful, for example it can help you to react faster, be more accurate and find better a solution.


Chronic stress is a stress resulting from long-term emotional pressure. Chronic stress can be dangerous, because symptoms of chronic stress are usually so mild that you might not even notice it. Also, your brain and body are used to adapting fast, thus chronic stress can easily become a regular state of your body. You might think that this is not an issue, however it is still stressful, so it has a negative effect on your body.


How stress affects the body


When facing stressful situations, your body releases stress hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. The heart beats faster, the heart starts to move blood much faster, thus blood pressure is increasing and muscles tens (your body prepares for a fight), you start to breath faster, glucose levels increase. At the same time, some organs stop working in a usual way, for example the digestive system. There is no energy for this, as all the energy is used to respond to stressful situations.


As mentioned earlier, these symptoms may not be dangerous, however facing stress often may have consequences.


For example, when we are stressed, our muscles tense. When the stress passes, muscles release the tension. However, if you face chronic stress, muscle tension may become a regular state of the body which later ends up in a back, neck, shoulders pain or headache. See progressive muscle relaxation below.


Also, the gastro system is sensitive to stress. It’s because this system has close “communication” with the brain. So, stomach aches during stressful days are very common.  


Long-term stress can affect mental health and even be one of the reasons for depression. 


Stress vs anxiety


What is the difference between stress and anxiety – do you know?


Quite often these two words are used in the same context or as synonyms. However, even if they both have very similar symptoms, stress and anxiety are caused by different factors.  


As described above, stress is our response to an external trigger, while anxiety is often triggered internally by your own thoughts — judgments or self-blame about the past, worries about the future, and so on.


Stress management and your lifestyle


I already explained to you how stress affects your body. The “fight or flight” response, as you may understand, takes a lot of energy. So, for stress management you first of all need high levels of energy.


You should first think about your lifestyle. You need to have proper routine and balance. There is no chance to manage stress if you are tired.


So, first of all you need to take care about:

  1. Proper nutrition
  2. Physical activities
  3. Sleeping
  4. Resting


Yes, sleeping and resting is not the same! Resting includes time for your hobbies, friends and family or do-nothing time.


So, stress management tips…


There is no magic pill against stress, there is no recipe that would fit everyone. We all are very different, with different lifestyle, habits and health, thus it’s normal that different things work for us.


Also, I would like to highlight that none of these tips separately will save you from stress, it’s a combination of different tools.


Everything starts in your mind…

  1. Setting boundaries. It’s not an easy process, but it's definitely worth doing. Letting people know where your limits are, can help you to avoid a lot of stressful situations.
  2. Stop overthinking. The mind works fast and can go far, especially if you are tired. A small trigger which causes you stress, can become a big issue in your mind. Try to ask yourself how important is this matter for you, what could be the worst scenario and what you could do right now to solve it.
  3. Learning to say “no”. You don’t have to say “no” for everything. But sometimes less is actually more. If you always say “yes” to everything that comes into your life, you can easily get overwhelmed and stressed for not being able to manage the situation.
  4. Avoid multitasking. If you have many small tasks, you might feel like multitasking all the time and that’s ok. However, if you need your full attention somewhere, better avoid distractions and focus on what needs to get done. Like this you will definitely decrease levels of stress and increase quality.
  5. Avoid conflicts. Constructive discussion is always great, however you should better avoid meaningless conflicts. It gives nothing, just stress and also takes your energy, time, sometimes even motivation.
  6. Take a break. Sometimes we are so busy that we think we don’t have even 5 minutes to unwind. However, the human brain can’t work without a break. By forcing yourself to do it, you will simply become more sensitive to stress.


Get organized…

  1. Plan and prioritize. It can decrease your stress, especially on busy days. It would help you to avoid last minute stress and be more efficient.
  2. Plan your free time. Add it to your agenda. If your life is really chaotic, full of work and personal life related responsibilities, then you should definitely plan your free time. Like this you will make sure that you don’t end up stressed, spending all your weekend for laundry, grocery and cleaning.
  3. Do nothing time – it’s important to sometimes be without a plan, without checking time, just being and doing nothing, preferably alone - staying with your thoughts can be also really helpful.


You don’t have to do it alone…

  1. Get some support. Sometimes all you need in a stressful situation is a nice conversation with your friend or family member. You also have many other options, like coaches, psychologists or counselors. They can either help you to better manage stress, or share their own experience. Quite often we stress about something without knowing that others have the same issue.


Relaxation techniques

  1. There are many studies which prove that mindfulness decreases stress and improves life quality. See my blog text about mindfulness.
  2. Relaxation strategies. There are many different strategies. I give you an example - progressive muscle relaxation. It helps reduce muscle tension associated with stress or anxiety. Sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed. Then tense and relax each muscle group, starting from your right or left leg. Hold the tension for 10 seconds and then release it. It helps to remove tension and relax your muscles.
  3. Simple breathing. Sometimes when you face really big stress, your brain might “forget” all other techniques. Breathing is a very basic way to help yourself. Find a calm place, sit, close your eyes and breath slowly: inhale counting till 3, exhale counting till 3 – repeat 3 times, inhale counting till 3, exhale counting till 6 – repeat 3 times, inhale counting till 3, exhale counting till 9 – repeat 3 times. Counting distracts your thoughts from a stressor, but the most important part is to breath slowly – it helps to decrease the stress effect over your body.
  4. Write down your worries and all emotions that it gave you. Journaling is one of the best ways to get rid of unpleasant emotions and later analyze them.


What you eat and what you drink…

  1. Control levels of caffeine. Caffeine makes you alert, thus it works “in the same direction” like stress. In general, small amounts of caffeine can boost your energy. However, if you are having a stressful day, it’s better to avoid coffee.
  2. Control levels of added sugar. Sugar gives energy to our body. However, consuming too much of added sugar leads to peaks and drops in energy levels. This affects the body and mind, thus during stressful days it is better to avoid added sugar.
  3. Be aware of your smoking and drinking. Many people use alcohol and smoking as a way to relax. They may seem to reduce tension and boost your mood. However, both can actually increase anxiety and make you more sensitive to stress.


These might not look important, but even details count…

  1. Start your day right. Getting up quite late, rushing to be on time, getting just a cup of coffee instead of proper breakfast, getting stuck in a traffic jam - many people start their day already stressed. This makes them more reactive to stress. But if you start a day with a positive attitude, good nutrition and without rush, you might get surprised how easier it is to manage stress during the day.
  2. Be comfortable. Physical discomfort may seem to be not related to stress. For example, if you are sitting in an uncomfortable chair all day, it might end up in a sore back and this will definitely make you more sensitive to stress. Noise, temperature and other things can work in the same way. So don’t forget to take care of your physical comfort.
  3. Probably there is no point in speaking about music, everyone knows the advantages of it. Favorite music can help you feel less stressed.



  1. Follow your own path. As I said before, there is no one solution that works for everyone. It’s about analyzing yourself, trying different ways and checking which works for you the best.