Stress. We all experience stress from time to time – some of us may handle it with deep breathing and meditation, while others jump straight to the pint of Ben & Jerry’s (I know I’m not the only one). The important things to keep in mind is knowing your limits when it comes to stress so as to avoid more serious health consequences down the road.
Stress is the brain and body’s response to events, and can be real or perceived. A real event is an actual occurrence, while a perceived event is something that hasn’t happened yet. Stress knows no demographic boundaries and can permeate at any given moment.
There are two main different types of stress: acute and chronic. Acute is short-lived, while chronic is consistent and persistent. The physical effects of stress can manifest in digestive issues, headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger and irritability, high blood pressure, lowered immune system, heart disease, depression, anxiety disorder, and/or other illnesses.
None of us have time for that.
So, how do we do right by ourselves and not let stress take over?
The first step is to realize that you’re stressed. The second is to recognize the source of your stress. The third, if possible, is to avoid or alter those occasions that bring you stress.
Focus on yourself. If you’re one of those people who give all of you to everyone else all the time, you have nothing left for you. It’s time to be a little selfish – try one week where you give 80 percent of yourself, but reserve that extra 20 percent for you. Whatever that means – reading a book, getting a pedicure, going for a nature walk. Take mini vacations during the day – go outside for a few minutes – take a “smoke break” of sorts and take some time for yourself.
Create healthy boundaries in life. Know your limits and understand your reaction when you go over them. There’s an importance in stillness that we forget about in the daily grind of our fast-paced lives. We also need to laugh more. Find the humor in life – seek out one or two things that make you laugh every day.
Learn how to integrate and balance harmonies of the mind, body, spirit, and emotion. Make a commitment to yourself to try and eliminate some of the stressors in your life, and/or find ways to healthfully cope with them.
What are some of the ways that you cope with stress?
The National Institute of Mental Health also suggests these tips to help cope with stress:
- Seek help from a qualified mental health care provider if you are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, have suicidal thoughts, or are using drugs or alcohol to cope.
- Get proper health care for existing or new health problems.
- Stay in touch with people who can provide emotional and other support. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations to reduce stress due to work burdens or family issues, such as caring for a loved one.
- Recognize signs of your body’s response to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
- Set priorities-decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload.
- Note what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
- Avoid dwelling on problems. If you can’t do this on your own, seek help from a qualified mental health professional who can guide you.
- Exercise regularly-just 30 minutes per day of gentle walking can help boost mood and reduce stress.
- Schedule regular times for healthy and relaxing activities.
- Explore stress coping programs, which may incorporate meditation, yoga, tai chi, or other gentle exercises.
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