Are you stressed out? If you’re like most Americans, chances are the answer is, “Heck, yeah!” Unfortunately, stress is a way of life for too many of us. Whether it’s concerns over family, work, relationships or even daily traffic jams, there seems to be a never ending stream of stressors.
There are many different facets of stress. It can help you in some instances and hinder you in others. And there are coping mechanisms that can diminish it (the bad stress). If you’re already feeling too stressed to read the rest of this article, then it’s a pretty good sign that you should keep reading - so take a deep breath and read on.
What is stress?
Stress covers a range of physiological responses to certain life events, such as a threat, a heated argument, and real or imagined danger. In short, stress is your body’s way of protecting itself in the face of these challenges. Your body releases adrenaline and cortisol hormones in order to prepare you to take action. At the same time, your blood pressure rises, breathing becomes more rapid and your heart starts pounding. These physiological changes can help boost your strength, bolster your stamina and hone your focus, which is why some people claim they work well under pressure.
Some common negative stressors can include workplace stress, the death of a loved one, divorce, injury or illness. Even seemingly positive life events can bring with them stressors such as marriage, buying your first home, having kids, or even getting a promotion. Stress can even be self-imposed from pessimism, perfectionism, or the inability to accept uncertainty.
Are you a serial stressor?
There’s no doubt that stress can help you meet short term challenges. However, chronic stress can leave your body feeling overworked and can be detrimental to your health. Moreover, long-term stress can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke, lead to premature aging, and leave you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
If you believe you might be suffering from debilitating chronic stress, the first step is to talk with someone trained to help you overcome these stressors, like a doctor or therapist. Next, try your best to avoid negative coping mechanisms such as smoking, overeating, or drug abuse. Here are our tips for reducing stress in your life in a healthy and more practical way:
Talk to a Friend: Expressing your feelings to a trusted friend can lighten your load. Remember, the more you isolate yourself, the more susceptible you will be to stress.
Exercise: Walk, swim or take a bike ride. When you exercise at a certain level over a period of time, the body produces chemicals that can make you feel good.
Eat a Healthy Diet: We know it can be difficult, but try to avoid fast foods loaded with fat and preservatives, overly salted foods, caffeine and sugar. Make sure your diet includes proteins, whole grains, fresh veggies and plenty of water.
Laugh: You read that right. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.”
Meditate: There’s no need to take a class or even buy a book on meditation. Just find a comfortable and quiet spot and think about all of the positive things in your life. Make an effort to feel truly thankful for each of them.
Curl up with a furry friend: We have to admit - this might be one of our favorite things to do. Spending quality time and cuddling up with your pet can lower blood pressure and stress levels.
Do nothing: Yep, nothing! Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that it’s okay to just do nothing at all for a while. Stop whatever activity is at-hand and savor the moment.
No matter which techniques you choose to incorporate in your routine, we truly hope they’ll help you to live a more abundant life, with less stress!
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