Stress is a negative state that results when we perceive danger, and the sources of stress are referred to as stressors. Stressors are definitely in the eye of the beholder, and the causes of one person?s stress can be very different from another person?s stress. Once a threat is identified, a very precise set of physical responses is set in motion.
Stress can take two major forms: short-term and chronic. Short-term stress, like the stress we experience during a challenging workout in the gym, is actually very good for us, both physically and mentally. More long-lasting types of stress, however, can have negative impacts on mood, health, and general well-being.Surviving stressful times is easier if you follow some basic stress management hints.
1. Eliminate Stressors
If you are feeling stressed because you have too much to do and too little time to do it, see if you can prioritize your to-do list and let some of the non-essential items go, at least for awhile. Find as many short-cuts you can, whether that’s hiring the teenager next door to mow your lawn or taking your shirts to the cleaners instead of ironing them yourself. If money problems are bothering you, make a plan to improve things.
Something as simple as bringing your lunch to work instead of eating in restaurants is not only going to save you tons of money, but you’ll be healthier at the same time. Walk or bike on some of your errands to save gas, and get some stress-reducing exercise at the same time.
The worst thing you can do with stressors is to “play ostrich.” Ignoring the sources of your stress hoping that they will magically go away never works.
2. Take Control
Sometimes our sources of stress hit us like a bolt of lighting. Our partner leaves us, we are diagnosed with a challenging disease, we’re laid off suddenly at work. We can’t just wish these stressors away, but we can change how we treat them. Taking action, even little baby steps, can give us a sense that we are back in control of our lives.
Educate yourself about your disease, so that you can be an informed participant in your treatment. Spruce up your resume and spend some time networking with people you haven’t seen in awhile. The sense that you are taking action will go a long ways towards reducing your overall stress.
3. Stay Healthy
Because chronic stress takes a toll on the immune system over time, people who are very stressed tend to become ill more easily. To prevent this from happening to you, be extra careful about how you eat, your amount and quality of sleep, and your exercise when you have some serious stress in your life. If you’re already reasonably healthy, the “hit” your immune system takes due to stress won’t be as dangerous as if you are running on empty.
4. Work Up a Sweat!
Regular exercise is not only important for your physical health, but it is great for your mental health, too. Aerobic exercise can even be used to treat major depressive disorder, but of course you’ll want to discuss this option with your health care provider before trying this out. In controlled research, people with depression who exercised regularly obtained the same relief from depression as people taking antidepressant medication.
5. Stay Connected
We are a social species. One of the best ways to reduce stress is to spend time with your friends and loved ones. Although it’s ideal to receive your social support from other people, pets can be a helpful source of stress reduction (especially a dog who takes you on a walk!). The U.S. Military is using a large number of therapy dogs to help deployed soldiers reduce stress and hopefully avoid developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
To paraphrase the popular bumper sticker, “Stress happens.” We can’t always prevent bad things from happening, but we can completely control our reaction to them. By following good stress management practices, you can turn a major mountain ahead of you into a bump in the road.