How many of you are like this? I stress about stress before there’s even stress to stress about. Then I stress about stressing over stress that doesn’t need to be stressed about. It’s stressful! Learning about stress management is extremely beneficial to your health and wellness. Can a person go completely without stress in their lives? Absolutely not and it would not be healthy for you either. Stress is an everyday fact of life and can be good for us; it helps us make changes for the better, like with our survival, work performances, relationship problems, etc. Stress can become a problem though if there is too much of it and you don’t take care of it appropriately so it is very important to learn how to manage your stress the right way.
To better understand how to manage something, you must know everything about it. Let’s go back to our cave man days when people not only had to hunt for food, but also worry about being hunted themselves. They had to be quick on their toes and make decisions quickly. We all have that survival mechanism built into us through our genes. It is called the flight or fight response. When you are in danger, your brain signals for hormones to be dumped into your blood stream called adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. These hormones cause changes in your body, such as: increased heart rate, increased rate of breathing, shaky hands, red face, increased energy, increased focus of mind, etc. These are all things needed to either run from the danger or fight it which was all good for our ancestors, but nowadays we really don’t use it often. Let’s take for example someone cutting you off in your car. You’re not going to get out of the car and run away and you’re not going to get out of the car and beat that person up. Instead, you may say some not so nice words, shake a fist and maybe pound on your steering wheel, but other than that no physical activity happens. So, think about how much stress you are exposed to and how often your body can be put into some degree of that fight or flight response.
What happens to all those hormones that get injected into your bloodstream-do they just go away? Absolutely not, and over time they start to attack your body. Here are some health problems these hormones can cause: migraines or tension headaches, depression, heartburn, insomnia, anxiety, weakened immune system, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, increased emphysema, stroke/heart attack, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, acid reflux, tense muscles, skin outbreaks (acne, hives), arthritis flare ups, TMJ, grinding teeth, tremors, muscle pain, dry mouth, problems swallowing, eating disorders, nightmares, disruptive sleep cycles, difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts, forgetfulness, confusion, nervous habits, obsessive or compulsive behavior, social withdrawal, fatigue, and weakness…just to name a few!
There are different degrees of how stress can affect you, for instance, examples of mild stress would be a disagreement with spouse or snow storm, moderate stress would be a temporary break up with spouse or tornado warning, maximum stress would be a divorce or having everything you own destroyed by a tornado. Stress can also be measured by how long it lasts. Acute stress is something that affects you for a short period of time and then goes away, for instance: starting to date someone, work deadlines, mild arguments, natural disaster, death of a loved one, etc. If your house is destroyed by a hurricane, you eventually rebuild and move on so the stress only lasts for that period of time and then is done. Chronic stress is stress that you are affected by constantly and will never go away unless a change is made, like living in a bad neighborhood, abusive marriage, child abuse, drug addiction, life-threatening illness, etc. Until you get out of that situation, that stress is going to affect you daily.
Stress becomes a problem when you have too much of it and you’re not dealing with it properly. Remember, it’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. Many people use negative coping skills to try to handle the stress which can include: smoking, drugs, alcohol, gambling, stealing, excessive shopping over means, chewing fingernails, too much caffeine, eating too much or too little, oversleeping, avoiding the problem, dwelling on the negative, violence, suicide, etc. These ways do not work, they cause more stress for us, and also destroy our health. Positive ways in which to handle stress more effectively would be:
- The most important and positive way to combat stress is to exercise those stress hormones away.
- Identify the stress in your life and eliminate stress that is not needed.
- Take control-say no more often.
- Eat a healthy diet-reduce caffeine/sugar.
- Take time for yourself/pamper yourself.
- Express your feelings.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Create a balanced schedule of work, play and leisure.
- Don’t try to control the uncontrollable.
- Take small steps to solve problems.
- Learn to forgive.
- Always look for the upside.
- Connect with others.
- Participate in leisure activities/past times/hobbies.
- Practice relaxation exercises, guided imagery or meditation.
- Manage your time better.
- Keep your sense of humor.
- Connect with your higher power.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.
- Get enough sleep.
Remember, most of your stress comes from the way your respond, not the way life is. Adjust your attitude, and all that extra stress is gone.