Stress is one of the major direct, and indirect causes of death, especially today in our trying economic times plagued with war and financial crisis. Stress can not only have extremely harmful effects on your body, but it seriously affects your mind and spiritual well being as well. The worst part about it is that people don’t realize how easy it is to manage. Stress is such a regular thing in our lives that it can become almost addictive in nature. There are those who thrive in such an environment, where stress is always dominate and because they aren’t use to not having it, don’t know how to function without it.
Despite this, stress is and will have negative affects on you and your life over time. However, don’t fall under the impression that all stress is negative. When we are in danger we experience the infamous “Fight or Flight” response due to the stressful situation. So even though stress is very harmful to your health, there are times when it is an extremely vital tool for our survival. Although, these situations are not taking place every waking moment of our lives, and we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be set back physically or spiritually due to an unpaid bill, or because we didn’t get the good seats at the movie theater. Fear not though, because there are numerous ways to deal with the stress we seem to experience day in and day out.
An Introduction to Stress
What IS Stress? Stress is just your bodies way of reacting to any kind of demand it faces. Be that emotional or physical. When you are stressed your body releases chemicals allowing for greater focus, energy, and strength. This can be extremely effective for those in sports, or working out. However, when you are trying to write a ten page paper for class due the next morning, all of that energy and strength isn’t going to help you, and what could have been helpful just turns into frustration.
The Major Causes of Stress
The Environment – Your environment can have a negative impact on you causing stress. If your day in and day out environment is dangerous and you feel uncomfortable, it’s overly crowded, hot, or cold, if it’s too loud or it’s not conducive to your work or schooling activities it can be a serious factor in the amount of stress you experience daily.
Yourself – We are often our biggest stressors. A lot of times we, as my mother would so eloquently put it “watch the hammer fall.” Due to our up bringing and the experiences we’ve had in our lives, it’s not uncommon for people who are completely content to allow their minds to wander into all of the negative things that COULD happen. What if this goes wrong, or what if this doesn’t do that. In doing so we create stress within us that doesn’t need to be there. By criticizing and scrutinizing every incremental detail of everything, and searching for the negative we put our selves in positions we never wanted to be in. The very situations we were hoping to avoid in the first place.
Survival – This is where that “Fight or Flight” comes into play. If you’ve ever been into a life threatening situation you know what I’m talking about. When you feel as though your life is being threatened or you’re in any form of danger your body immediately reacts by dosing you with enough adrenalin for you to either flea the scene all together, or for you to have the strength to defend yourself at that moment. This form of stress often leaves people somewhat restless, nauseous, or just shaky after the occurrence.
Other People – This usually goes hand in hand with your environment, but not always. The people in your life are often times major stressors, despite how much we may or may not care for them. Abusive people, emotional or physical, should not be around you. Anyone who isn’t supportive to your mental or physical well-being can be an extreme stressor. This doesn’t mean get rid of everyone who brings stress into your life, it just means that you should monitor the affects people have on you and choose when you feel you can tolerate it. For instance, if you aren’t feeling well it wouldn’t be the best idea to go around someone you can’t stand. Besides, getting rid of everyone who stresses you out would be terrible news for children across the nation.
Work and Fatigue – This is one of the more obvious and relateable factors. Unless you love your job with an undying passion, work at times can be the most stressful and irritating things in the world. It makes you tired, and it’s a regular routine most people just can’t get out of. When you are fatigued you are more likely to be irritable resulting in more frustration and thus more stress. Finding happiness in the workplace is one of the most important things you can do for your life, but it’s not always one of the easiest.
The Negative Effects of Stress
On Your Body: Constant stress eats away at you by lowering your ability to fight off sickness. It can cause and make you more susceptible to headaches, muscle pains/chest pains, heart disease, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, stomach aches and pains, and sleep problems. Just to name a few possible effects.
On Your Mental Health: High levels of stress can result in anxiety, insecurities, restlessness, depression, frustration, anger, irritability, worrying, as well as an increased difficulty in maintaining focus.
Your Behavioral Habits: Stress can cause you to over or under-react to a situation by down playing serious events due to feeling overwhelmed, or snapping at trivial things due to frustration. It can cause angry outbursts, drug and/or alcohol abuse, relationship issues, or social withdrawal.
Spiritual: Increased levels of stress has very negative effects on us spiritually. It can sometimes lead us to doubt, question, or put aside our spiritual beliefs or practices because we feel too overwhelmed and just “don’t want to deal” with it, or don’t feel we have the time to acknowledge them.
Managing Your Stress
Dealing with stress isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be. The first step dealing with your stress is catching it before it evolves into a serious problem. When I was in training with the Red Cross a few years ago, I attended a seminar with a motivational speaker. I cannot remember his name but his residual message stuck with me. “Handle it once” was something he said often, it was his entire focal point during his speech, and how procrastination leads you down roads you never want to be down. It results in things like being overwhelmed and overly stressed. I would advise anyone reading this to take that into consideration. When something comes up, handle it right then and there, don’t put it off until later. The sooner you handle something the less you have to be concerned with it.
Stress Management Techniques
1. Meditation – Meditation can be an extremely useful tool when it comes to managing your stress. If you don’t think you have enough time to meditate I would advise you look into Mindfulness Meditation techniques. But the most simple form of meditation you can do on a moments notice is to breathe. Breathing is the one thing we neglect all the time, without fail. Unless you are suffering from some form of breathing disorder, each breath you take usually goes unnoticed. If you find yourself to be extremely stressed out, take a moment or two out of your day to take a few deep breaths. Follow the breath in, and out. I would suggest in through the nose and out through the mouth, but do what feels comfortable. Just sit like this for awhile, and breathe out all the negativity. When you’re done you’ll feel a whole lot more refreshed.
2. Exercise – Exercising regularly does wonders for stress reduction. It not only makes you healthier and supplies you with often times, much needed energy, but it increases the amount of endorphins you experience. Exercise is also said to have a link to the Dopamine levels in your blood. Dopamine is your “feel good” chemical. It’s the same chemical that is released during the peak of orgasm, or why you feel that quenched satisfaction when you bite into that fresh piece of cake. Wow, cake and exercise… You see my point, however. Exercise can be overall very beneficial for you, and the surgeon general currently recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise everyday for optimal health and vitality. For more information on exercise or healthy living see This Post.
3. Eating Healthy - Maintaining a healthy diet is a vital part of keeping a healthy lifestyle in general. Eating excess red meats, or junk food like that wonderful cake from the above suggestion can have harmful effects on your health. A healthy body and mind helps you feel better on a day in and day out basis, thus giving you more room to “breathe” in a sense. Feeling good about yourself is a great way to stop stress in it’s tracks, and as such, eating healthy should become a regular thing for you, or at least something you try to accomplish every day. Think twice before you take a pleasant car ride through that drive through next time!
4. Yoga – Yoga is a common stress reduction technique. It’s a great method for relaxation and empowers you with energy and a sensation of an inner calm. I understand that not everyone believes they have the time for such things, but basic stretching everyday will do great things for you as well. Take 10 – 14 minutes out of your day to just stretch and loosen up. If you’re feeling really stressed take a breather and do some light stretching. It’s a really great aid and something you can do almost anywhere. If you are seeking more information on Yoga you can visit AnmolMetha – Mastery of Meditation. Yoga & Zen. It’s a very large resource on yoga and like topics that I was lucky enough to be featured in.
5. Counting – This could easily fall under the category of meditation, but it’s something that’s taught completely separately at a lot of different places. Counting backwards from 10 – 1 is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It distracts you from whatever is going on at that present moment and gives you the time to settle down before acting, or reacting to a situation. I personally don’t find counting from 10 – 1 as effective as let’s say, 20 – 10. It has something to do with routines and what you’re use to. For me 10 – 1 is just too common and takes little thought so it doesn’t distract me enough as a different set of numbers. Do what you feel comfortable, but it’s a great tool to have in your stress fighting arsenal.
6. Get Enough Sleep – Yes, getting enough sleep is something most don’t experience. The average working American citizen gets between 6 – 7 hours of sleep a night. The recommended amount of sleep is 8 – 9 hours, although depending on your source it may be from 7 – 9 hours. Either way, ensure that you are getting adequate sleep. Being well rested gives you a jump start on your day. You will be more energized and willing to engage in what comes your way. Not getting enough sleep and being fatigued all day is just leaving yourself wide open for minor annoyances, and being sluggish means you will be less likely able to handle a situation efficiently on the spot that may prove to be stressful.
These are just some of the main ways you can reduce or eliminate stress from your life entirely. There are many other methods out there, such as listening to music, engaging in more healthy social situations, reading, writing it out, hobbies, sports, etc… Do what works best for you, but do something. Stress is just one of those things we are forced to encounter during our lives, but just because situations that seem stressful arise, doesn’t mean we have to fall victim to it. We have control over what we allow to “stress us out” and what we do not, with that being said, stress shouldn’t be an issue in any way, shape, or form. These are some tools to get you started on your way, and I wish you the best of luck.