Some amount of stress in your life is normal and, to some degree, healthy and even productive. For some people, stress isn’t so easily managed, and for others it can become unbearable and paralyzing. Persistent stress and anxiety has the ability to increase your risk of developing heart problems, digestive difficulties, sleep disturbances, memory impairment, and weight issues and up your odds of having cognitive difficulties later in life, according to some studies linking stress to anxiety and even dementia. Taking steps now to reduce or manage your stress in healthy ways, and harness it positive ways, could definitely have some positive long-term health benefits.
Exactly What Problems Can Stress Create?
Our bodies are hardwired to respond to stress
in a self-limiting way. After the stressful situation has ceased, stress hormones drop and all of your organ systems return to normal. However, when stress is constantly present, hormones do not stop flowing and body systems cannot return to normal.
The body is not meant to deal with these hormones on a long-term basis, which is why chronic stress can cause the following problems:
• Anxiety disorders
• Development of depression
• Digestive difficulty
• Chronic headaches
• Sleep disturbances
• Memory impairment
• Lack of concentration.
Identify and Document Your Stress
It’s easy to brush things off as, “just another stressful day at the office” or blame everyone from your boss to your kids, or even the guy down the street, for your stress. Even if this is, in part, true, you’re not doing yourself any favors by accepting stress as a normal part of your life. You do not provide any positive results for yourself by making excuses for it or accepting it as something that’s normal for you. Not to stress you out, but stress shouldn’t be a normal part of your daily life. It is time to gain some control over your stress, and take control of your life by:
• Identifying particularly stressful situations that occur on a fairly regular basis.
• Keeping a journal to document your feelings without worrying about what someone else might think.
• Making changes to your own behaviors or routines when possible (e.g not waiting until the last minute to finish a report or knowing when to say “no” when asked to take on another task you don’t have time to do. Simply saying no about taking on another task can greatly reduce your stress and make you feel in control).
Avoid Unhealthy Ways of Coping
Not all forms of stress management are healthy. There are healthy ways of coping with stress, and ways of coping that are detrimental to your health. Defaulting to excessive drinking, smoking, or comfort foods loaded with calories and carbohydrates often leads to a large assortment of other health issues beyond your stress, and many of these health problems can be extremely scary. While it’s understandable to turn to distractions and enjoyable activities for stress relief, you’ll see more productive results when making healthy coping choices. Some of these include:
• Regular exercise:
You don’t have to hit the gym when you get stressed, although this is certainly an option. Going for a casual walk or taking your dog to the local park after work can be just as beneficial.
• Activity-based games: Instead of zoning out and parking yourself on the couch for hours while fending off zombies, relieve your stress with games that require some movement or active participation.
• Yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi: Controlled movement forms of exercise like yoga and related disciplines promote overall relaxation by focusing on deep breathing and calming thoughts.
• Meditation: How you think about stress has a lot to do with how it affects your health. Most forms of meditation involve shifting your focus away from unpleasant thoughts — and it’s something you can do just about anywhere.
Get Social… In Person
Interacting with others can provide instant relief from a stressful day or situation. While social media and digital interactions via Skype or some other video platform can be beneficial, actually getting out and doing something productive with friends can be even more rewarding. Being physically close to people provides a greater benefit than speaking to them over a computer. Hearing the human voice has its own benefits when it comes to reducing stress. Well, unless it is your mother-in-law’s voice. If you don’t have a buddy close by, reach out to family members. They may be more than willing to lend a hand or listen than you realize.
A big part of reducing stress is accepting the things you can’t change. Rather than trying to control the situation, try to find an upside — even if it’s a small one. Once the stressful moment is over, move on and avoid dwelling on it. If your stress reaches a point where it’s truly overwhelming, see your doctor for a referral to someone who may be able to help you develop effective coping techniques and strategies or suggest other solutions.
There is a very high chance that your doctor will refer you to a counselor. Talk-therapy has been proven to reduce stress, help people cope better with stress, and feel “lighter” in their own life. Since the counselor is not involved in your everyday life, you do not have to worry about them judging you based on what you say, how you feel, or the reasons you become stressed out. Since they work with patients from all walks of life, they have learned coping techniques that are not taught during their educational process. The best part is, unlike your husband, the counselor is actually listening and provides feedback based on what you have to say. Use their experience for your own benefit.
Do not feel bad about seeing a counselor. Even people who do not suffer from chronic stress visit a counselor on a regular basis to avoid stress, rather than let it develop later. The added benefit is that you leave every counseling session feeling great, and feeling as though you have complete power over your life.
I am Andrew Wood, blogger by profession, who takes great pride in writing on different health aspects. Being a health conscious person myself, I always try to come up with new information that could help my readers in living a healthy life.
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