If your compassion does not include yourself, it is not complete. – Jack Kornfield
A lot of people are full of compassion when it comes to others. They’re quick to notice that someone looks like they didn’t get a good night’s sleep or that they seem like they’re under a lot of stress. The problem is that this sometimes doesn’t work introspectively.
Being under a lot of stress or in a stressful environment is usually not something that happens overnight. More likely than not, it’s a chain of events that lands you deeper and deeper into a stressful environment/set of circumstances. Experiencing a stressful event is not as bad as chronically being under stress.
One way to make yourself more resilient to stress is to learn how to put yourself first. This is why proper self-care is one of the essential components in your stress management toolset. In other words, self-care is essential to stress management, but it is also true that proper stress management is a form of self-care in its own right.
Stress-related Health Problems
Before we even start, it’s important that you understand why coping with stress is so important. Here are several biggest health-related problems that you could develop if you ignore this for too long:
- Heart disease
If you have a genetic predisposition towards some of these illnesses, it’s even more important that you limit your exposure to stress. It’s far better to try and soften the blow of Alzheimer’s or postpone it (in a scenario where you have the genetic predisposition) than to have to learn how to cope with it.
While the fact that you should avoid stress is supposed to be quite obvious, this is not necessarily the case for a lot of people. Instead, we’re taught that stress is just a natural symptom of living in modern society and that you should embrace it or learn how to live with it. While there is some truth to this, it’s also crucial that you understand what you’re putting on the line. Now that you know better, you can understand just how important this is.
Symptoms of Stress
A lot of people live under the assumption that stress is easy to define or even identify. However, this is a psychological condition whose symptoms vary from one case to another. Those used to using stress as an excuse for everything will make the mistake of attributing all sorts of unpleasant symptoms to it (even though this isn’t necessarily true). Others will ignore apparent symptoms of stress to appear strong in the eyes of those they’re trying to impress.
To avoid the majority of these assumptions, it’s important that you learn some of the most common stress indicators. There are three types of symptoms you need to watch out for.
- Being easily agitated
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Having problems relaxing
- Chest pain
- Low energy
- Upset stomach
- Loss of sexual desire
- Nervousness and shaking
- Dry mouth
- Racing thoughts
- Constant pessimism
- Inability to focus
- Forgetfulness and disorientation
Just keep in mind that with a lot of people, these symptoms may vary. After all, stress is a subjective thing. Also, some of these symptoms and symptom combinations have other causes. In other words, it’s probably best to talk to a professional.
Physical Exercise Makes a Difference
Deep down, we are still governed by a lot of primal instincts that drove our ancestors. This is why people feel so good in the aftermath of physical exercise. You see, during the dawn of humankind, the only reason for humans to run was to either run away from something chasing them or catch on to something that they were chasing (for food). Upon catching their prey or running away from the predator, people had all the reason to rejoice – they’ll get to live another day. So, the happiness hormones started overwhelming them.
Today, you can condition yourself in this way by doing sports. This, however, is a gift that keeps giving. There’s no real danger (even in contact, combat sports), and you get to condition yourself to release these stress-reducing hormones. The best part is that there are also so many sports for you to choose from. You don’t have to run or cycle if you find this to be too tedious. Instead, you can hit the nearest racquetball court, find the necessary equipment and start learning about this incredible sport.
Keep in mind that there are some scenarios where your stress level is increased because you (subconsciously) feel intimidated. Getting in shape and becoming physically more dominant can take some of this edge. In turn, you will feel better about yourself, and it will become a lot harder for anyone to shake your confidence.
Leading a healthy lifestyle is not enough to help you cope with stress on its own, but it can make your job of doing so a lot easier. For instance, when you’re exhausted and sleep-deprived, you’re easier to aggravate. So, it’s easy to understand why this would make any bad news seem more catastrophic. If you’re in a workplace and your stress comes from work-related tasks, being tired will limit your cognitive capacities, making you more likely to make a mistake.
Previously we’ve talked about lack of focus and tiredness, and both tobacco and alcohol can enhance this effect on your mind and body. Being hungry will also make you more irritable, while overeating will cause you to feel bloated and even drowsy. In general, leading a healthy lifestyle and dropping some of your most harmful vices will help you change the way you handle stress for the better.
Surrounding Yourself with Positive People
When it comes to the external sources of stress, there are three types of people who are most likely to stress you out. These are:
- Significant other
The biggest problem with these three groups is the fact that you won’t have an easy time avoiding them. Sure, you could try and have a conversation with them, but some people are just negative, toxic, or abusive, which means that they either don’t care or they even behave this way on purpose.
The key thing is for you to try and get out of these relationships as soon as possible and surround yourself with positive people. Quitting your job, breaking up with your significant other, and even moving sound quite drastic, but they can improve your lifestyle quality quite drastically.
If you still think things are not that bad and that these measures are too extreme, it might be a good idea for you to revisit the list of diseases caused by chronic stress (first section of this post).
Changing Your Work Environment
Previously, we’ve talked about the importance of distancing yourself from a boss (possibly even a coworker) who’s causing you stress. However, sometimes the whole company culture will be toxic and hostile. At other times, you will just be too afraid to admit to yourself that it’s the nature of the work that doesn’t suit you.
It takes a lot of courage to admit that you’re unhappy with the current state of affairs. It takes even more courage to realize that you don’t have to be.
So, if you’re under constant stress, you may need to leave.
There’s one more thing that we need to address here – the concept of tough love. You see, tough love is a popular method in the business world, but its effectiveness is highly disputed. According to some specialists, this is an outdated concept that is used and abused by bullies in order to justify their behavior. In other words, it does more harm than good.
No, they’re not trying to “toughen you up.” What they’re doing is harassment, and it needs to stop.
Taking Some ‘ME’ Time
It is a good idea to try and remind yourself (from time to time) what all of this is about. Having some me-time will help you remind yourself of the purpose behind all these stress-inducing activities and why coping with stress is sometimes a necessary evil.
For instance, taking some time to enjoy a hobby and spending some money on yourself is an important reminder of why you put up with all that stress in the workplace. For other people, spending time with their family helps remind them of who they’re working for.
It’s easy to endure even the greatest stress and even not take it so seriously when you know that what you’re doing is essential. Having a purpose in life is the best way to make yourself mentally resilient.
At the very end, we must debunk one myth – self-care is not selfish. If anything, it’s the furthest thing from it. When you’re under stress, you’re less pleasant to be around. Sure, some people may just start avoiding you, but what about people who don’t have this option? What about your family members or your coworkers?
From this point of view, taking care of yourself first and foremost can be considered as acting towards the general good. You’re of more use to everyone when you’re not under stress. By learning how to cope with stress, you’re doing both yourself and everyone else a huge favor.