Stress causes more than mental anguish. It can also affect your health. This article will discuss how stress can be managed and controlled.
What Is Stress and How To Handle Anxiety
Everyone feels stress occasionally. What’s interesting is that everybody perceives or responds to stress differently. The feelings of stress originate from our flight or fight responses.
Our bodies secrete hormones, when a perceived shock or threat has occurred. These hormones increase blood pressure, the heart rate and blood sugar to allow us to move faster to survive that threat. Mental clarity is usually impaired and sacrificed at this time.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, most people experience stress when encountering unexpected events or changes when mental clarity is required, as opposed to life-threatening circumstances. How the stress is managed, will determine how it will effect that individual long term.
When stress is experienced it can manifest in certain ways. Stress can cause back pain, headaches, TMJ, fatigue, shortness of breath, weight gain or loss and stomach upset. Psychologically, symptoms could include anxiety, depression, insomnia and relationship problems.
If stress is prolonged more serious health problems can arise. The National Institute of Health cites that exposure to stress can lead to behavioral problems resulting in substance abuse, excessive alcohol consumption, over or under eating, and smoking. Studies conducted by the Mayo Clinic confirm that long-term exposure to stress can cause heart disease as well.
An increase in heart rate and blood pressure for long periods of time can thicken arterial walls. As stress continues and the heart demands oxygenated blood, these thickened arterial walls may prevent adequate blood flow needed to feed the heart, resulting in a heart attack. Stress, also damages the immune system and autoimmune responses in our body. This can result in increased cold frequency as well as worsening or causing other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.
Management needs to be tailor made for the individual. However, generally speaking, the following are some suggestions by the American Academy of Family Physicians to reduce stress. Exercising on a regular basis is one of the main stress reducing activities.
Exercise makes the individual use pent-up energy and tension, focusing the nervous energy into a constructive activity. Deep breathing, stretching and meditation are other ways that can help. Deep breathing allows more oxygen to enter the blood system, while stretching also relieves aching, tense muscles. Meditation is a form of hypnotic or guided thinking that can ease anxiety.
Other suggestions are to partake in activities that are non-stressful and induce relaxation. These can include social activities, sports and hobbies. Not worrying over things out of our control, preparation for events viewed as stressful ahead of time, looking at things positively as a challenge instead of a threat, resolving conflicts with others and setting realistic goals are other suggestions. Seeking the advice of friends or family or psychological counseling, may also be advisable.
Stress can be mentally and physically debilitating. Learning to cope with stress and dealing with its symptoms are vital. Doing so will improve one’s quality of life and allow the resolution and removal of the problem effectively and efficiently.
Strategies to Find the Cure to a Stressful Life
Stress is both a disease in itself and the cause of physical illness. With mental and physical strategies, it is possible to handle stress in a constructive way.
Many health and religious gurus refer to stress as the “disease of our time.” This is not unusual. Many people succumb to the pressures of stress created by issues in the workplace and at home.
Indeed, stress has become a recognized health problem among the workforce. The cost of stress-related illness is rising by the day. Although there is little the individual can do about situations that cause stress, it is possible to handle these in a proactive way on both a mental and physical level.
Mental Strategies to Manage Stress
When faced with a stressful situation, the mind can be either a vicious enemy or a vital ally. The problem is that most people tend to react to stressful situations without consciously trying to control their thinking. The tendency is to immediately focus on the negative situation itself. This is not constructive. It escalates negativity.
A good mental strategy to combat stress is visualization. For example, find an image that creates peace in the mind and heart. When faced with a stressful situation, take a mental retreat from the problem and the anxiety it creates, and visualize something peaceful instead. This calms the mind, promotes clear thinking, and helps to manage the situation objectively.
Creating a peaceful mind in this way also helps to engage in positive and proactive rather than negative and reactive thinking. Without denying the reality of the situation, the clarity of a calm mind searches for solutions rather than additional problems. A positive attitude can for example be reflected in thoughts such as:
- “This is a problem, but I have an amazing team to help me solve it.”
- “Everyone is stressed out, so maybe we should do something to calm the atmosphere.”
Physical Strategies to Manage Stress
Often the mental response to stress is the direct effect of its physical effects. Like anger, stress can also be managed by controlling the physical sensations it creates. Breathing deeply and regularly is for example a good way to combat the feelings created by stress. Deep breathing creates a calmer feeling within the body and a clearer feeling in the mind. Making a habit of breathing deeply creates a much better ability to handle stress.
Laughter is also an excellent way to dispel stress. When facing stress in a social or workplace situation, try to have a joke ready to defuse the volatile emotion. Like breathing, laughter creates a calmer and happier feeling on both the physical and mental level. Laughter has the function of immediately creating a lighter atmosphere in which people are able to understand that they may have overreacted.
Distraction is perhaps not an optimal way to handle stress, but it can give some perspective. When faced with a difficult and stressful situation, remove yourself mentally or even physically. Do something completely different and unrelated to the stress issue. Trust your mind to find a solution to your problem and to handle the stress effectively.
The Habit of Stress Reduction
Everybody experiences stress. Stress comes from many sources: work, life, money, friends and family. Each person will have a different strategy that works best to manage stress effectively. The trick is to find which works best and make a habit of it. Forming a habit involves repeating an action several times, until it becomes a routine response.
Make laughter a habit, for example. Or practice visualizing a calming image every day, regardless of whether stress is a factor or not. Once these actions are habits, they will help to dispel the negative effects of stress, and also promote clear thinking.
Three Steps to Relieve the Stress of Work
Learn three easy steps you can take to leave behind a stressful day at work so you can enjoy your evening.
Work can be stressful, especially in these difficult economic times. If you still have a job you’re either worried about losing it or overwhelmed with the extra workload of co-workers who lost their jobs. You hate to complain, but the stress at work is wearing you down. Worse yet, you’re carrying it home with you and you find it hard to relax at home.
Stress Can be Bad for Your Health
Perhaps while searching for ways to deal with workplace stress you come across a WebMD article, “Mental Health: Tips to Control Stress,” and find that stress can lead to headaches, an upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, sexual dysfunction, and problems sleeping. It can also lead to emotional problems such as depression and panic attacks. As if that’s not enough, the article claims that stress is linked to heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
If you’re used to brooding about the day’s problems on your way home, it’s time to use your evening commute as a transitional time for stress relief. Re-visiting every problem of the day is like re-living each and every one of them, magnifying the stress you originally felt every time you think about it.
Stress is the trash of modern life – we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life. ~Danzae Pace tweet
Workplace Stress Relief
The following steps will help you leave a stressful day of work at work. This transition process will help you close off your day–even a stressful day–on a positive note paving the way for an enjoyable evening.
Caution: If your commute home requires your careful attention, such as driving in heavy rush hour traffic, consider following these tips by spending a few minutes quietly in the parking lot before setting out. Or stop for a few minutes at a coffee shop on your way home.
Three Step Process of Stress Relief
- The first step is to take some deep, cleansing breaths. Breathe in deeply, filling your lungs. Hold it there for a comfortable count of four or five, then slowly exhale. Imagine the day’s stress being expelled with your breath. Repeat this three or four times. When you can feel some tension slipping away you’re ready for the next stress relief step.
- Ask yourself, “What went well today?” Even on the worst of days, something positive occurs. Mentally review everything that went well. Everything, not just major things. The point here is to get into a positive frame of mind. So if your morning coffee was hot and tasty, savor the memory for a bit. Maybe a co-worker told a funny story, or a customer was gracious and appreciative of your efforts. Stay with the day’s positive events long enough to notice that you’re starting to feel better, more relaxed, and in a more positive frame of mind.
- The third step is to ask yourself this question, “What did I learn today?” There is always something to be learned from an experience. Refrain from a negative such as, “I learned my boss is a total jerk!” That’s not what you learned, that’s a judgment based on anger. Perhaps what you learned from an interaction with your boss was that you could be more aware of her mood before dumping a new problem on her. Changing your perspective from re-hashing the day’s problems, which are no longer under your control, to focusing your attention on what you learned puts you back in control and on a positive path of growth.
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin. ~Mother Teresa tweet
Three Steps for Workplace Stress Relief
When leaving work, begin the next segment of your day by using deep breathing, followed by asking yourself two questions to help you leave your workday stress at work and enjoy your evening: “What went well today?” and “What did I learn today?”