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How to manage stress without harmful addictions

Stress is a normal part of modern day life that you should know how to manage effectively as a general self care skill.

A moderate level of stress can actually be beneficial as it causes you to strive for success, make progress and get things done. 

However, too much incessant stress that never seems to go away can cause mental, emotional and physical “wear and tear” that will ultimately deplete your mental and emotional health unless you manage it effectively.

Stress that is not managed well can lead to addictions to other harmful stimulus such as drugs, medications, junk food, excessive alcohol or even an unhealthy addiction to outlets like social media.

The good news, however, is when you are consciously aware of stress and how it effects you, you can learn how to benefit from a mild amount of stress without allowing it to spiral out of control.

Here we outline the two primary types of stress and how you can easily manage it in a way that doesn't bring you down and cause other problems in your life.

Two Main Types of Stress

Firstly, there are two main types of stress that exist, Eustress and Distress which we will explain briefly here.


The term "Eustress" was coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye, consisting of the Greek prefix eu- meaning "good", and stress, meaning "good stress".  In other words, Eustress is positive form of stress.

Remember, a small amount of stress can be the spark that compels you to take action in your daily personal and work life routine.

Eustress is the type of stress that drives achievers to reach project deadlines and to take on personal challenges which are generally life-enriching in some way.


Distress on the other hand, is stress with a negative influence, creating feelings of distrust, rejection, anger and even depression.

This type of stress often leads to discomforts and ailments such as migraines, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers and over time; high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Interestingly, having no stress at all can be a source of depression for some people, because it can lead to boredom or a lack of sense of purpose.  This is common in people who have spent their entire lives working or dedicated to their business or career, only to reach retirement age and then lose a part of their identity when they stop working.

So the point really is, managing stress is about finding a happy medium between the positive and negative aspects of stress so that it doesn't cause damage to your health and wellbeing.

How do you get rid of stress?

There are a number of simple things you can do to manage harmful stress without resorting to drugs or other addictive means.  These management techniques usually are about being conscious of the stress triggers and then being able to disrupt the destructive pattern before it takes hold of you.

Some helpful stress pattern disrupters include:

  • Change your environment temporarily and even long term, depending on the extent and regularity of the problem
  • Change your mood with physical exercise, getting out into nature, cooking a wholesome meal
  • Finding a different source of stimulus - to put a smile on your face, to spark a more inspiring thought pattern, or shift your perspective to what's right (rather than what's wrong) 
  • Channel your energy to gratitude - regardless of what the source of stress may be, one of the most powerful 'mental state-changers' is to spend a few minutes deep breathing and practicing gratitude for all that is good in your world.

Remember, the ultimate goal is not to eliminate stress entirely, but to learn how to manage it more effectively, so that it doesn't control you.

How can you tell what is optimal stress for you?

We all are individuals with unique requirements.

What is distressing to someone else, may be water off a ducks back for you. Everyone is likely to differ in their physiological and psychological responses to different types of stimulus in terms of stress classification.

Also, your personal stress thresholds and the amount you're able to tolerate, changes as you age. 

However, pent up stress that is never eased or dealt with, can eventually cause you to "hit the wall" or "break down", so managing stress over time is a vital "self care" principle that is worth your attention.

How can you manage stress better?

Even when you identify unrelieved stress and become aware of its effect on your life, nothing changes unless you choose to do something about it.

Just as there are many sources of stress, there are also many ways to manage it, including changing the source of stress and/or changing your reaction to it.

Become aware of your stress triggers and your emotional and physical reactions to these triggers

  • Notice your distress. Don’t ignore it but figure out if it's real or a made up story. 
  • Determine what events distress you. What are you telling yourself about the meaning of these events?
  • Determine how your body responds to the stress. Do you become nervous, anxious or physically upset? If so, in what specific ways?

Recognise what you can change

  • Can you change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating them completely?
  • Can you reduce their intensity or manage them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis?
  • Can you shorten your exposure to stress take a break or leave the physical premises?
  • Can you devote the time and energy necessary to making a change? Things such as goal setting, time management techniques, and delayed gratification strategies may be helpful here.

Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress

  • The stress reaction is triggered by your perception of danger; including physical danger and/or emotional danger. Are you viewing your stressors in exaggerated terms and/or taking a difficult situation and making it a disaster?
  • Are you expecting to please everyone?
  • Are you overreacting and viewing things as absolutely critical and urgent?
  • Do you feel you must always prevail in every situation?
  • Work at adopting more moderate views. Try to see the stress as something you can cope with rather than something that overpowers you
  • Try to temper your excess emotions. Put the situation in perspective. Do not labour on the negative aspects and the “what if’s.”

Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress

  • Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and respiration back to normal
  • Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension. You can gain voluntary control over such things as muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure
  • Learning to moderate these reactions on your own is a preferable long-term solution.

Build your physical reserves

  • Exercise for cardiovascular fitness three to four times a week. Moderate, prolonged rhythmic exercise is best, such as walking, swimming, cycling or jogging
  • Eat well balanced, nutritious meals
  • Eat for a healthy gut - plenty of fermented foods, fresh vegetables and a colon cleanse periodically
  • Avoid nicotine
  • Avoid antibiotics if possible as will disrupt the gut microbiome
  • Mix leisure with work. Take breaks and get away when you can.
  • Get 6-8 hours sleep per night. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule as possible.

Maintain your emotional reserves

  • Develop some mutually supportive friendships/relationships
  • Pursue realistic goals which are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you do not share
  • Expect some frustrations, failures and sorrows
  • Always be kind and gentle with yourself – be a friend to yourself.

The Main Take Away

A certain amount of stress is beneficial to progress and for helping you move towards your projects and goals, however, excess stress over the long term can take you out.

The secret to managing stress is to practice a self care and self aware approach, where you become more conscious of the triggers that cause you stress, so that you can better manage your response to these triggers.

Now more than ever, a proactive approach is needed for managing stress because of the sheer volume of stimulus that surrounds our environment that can make breaking the cycle of stress more difficult.

However, with conscious awareness, by sleeping well, eating well, exercising regularly and taking time out for yourself often, you will go along way to managing stress effectively so that it fuels you, rather than controls you in a harmful way.

Tolman Self Care.


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