Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress can also bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases. – WebMD
Stress, really, is just a part of life. We experience many events – both in the environment and within ourselves – that naturally put stress on the body. These stressors require the body to react and adjust emotionally, mentally and physically.
The human body is uniquely designed to both experience and react to stress. Stress can take two forms: “eustress,” which is positive, and “distress” which is negative. Distress becomes very problematic when we are continuously exposed to negative stress without sufficient relaxation or relief. Over a period of time; stress, tension, and other physical and mental symptoms often manifest
To understand just how important it is for us to learn how to deal with stress, consider these stats:
– 75 to 90 percent of all doctor’s office visits are stress related.
– The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that workplace related stress costs industries over $300 billion per year.
– Chronic and unaddressed stress reactions create over 50 percent of all emotional disorders.
– Over 40 percent of all adults experience adverse health effects because of stress.
– Stress has been linked with health problems such as: anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, headaches, heart problems, high blood pressure, and even skin disorders.
To be succinct about the dangers of stress – it can be deadly.
So, it is important that we understand how to deal with it. Stress causes a myriad of problems, and while we’ll never be completely immune to stress’ effects; but we can effectively learn to lessen these effects.
We do so by making some simple lifestyle changes, which brings us to the topic of today’s article.
Here are 5 Ways to Stop Being Overstressed
1. Get ACTIVE!
It seems that we talk about the benefits of exercise or physical activity in every article. This is because it appears that being physically active helps to either solve or alleviate every other type of disease or illness in existence. By the way, the evidence backs up this claim.
From the Mayo Clinic: “Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.”
From WebMD: “…bursts of (exercise)…may help buffer the devastating effects that stress can have on cellular aging.”
From the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): “Exercise is (considered) vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress.”
In other words, exercise – even of the light variety – is irreplaceable as a stress reducer. And a countless number of other things.
2. Understand the power of thought
Unproductive and negative thinking leads to worry, which results in the release of stress hormones. Sadly, we’ve become such a rushed and overworked society that this physical response is extremely commonplace.
There are certain thought patterns and habits that increase the frequency at which this physical response takes place. Here are some: “What if (fill in the blank)?,” “I should/should not ever do (fill in the blank),” “If (fill in the blank) does/doesn’t happen, (fill in the blank).”
Some people have a way of anticipating the worst and hoping for the best in nearly every situation. We all do this to some extent, and it is absolutely terrible for both our physical and mental health.
Try to understand that thoughts matter, which leads us to #3…
3. Practice mindfulness
Being mindful doesn’t require one to shave their head and relocate to a monastery. In fact, if you were to ask a dozen or so of your friends, you’d probably find one that takes this concept pretty seriously – and for good reason.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed the now-widely practiced Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program has this to say: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”
While this sounds simple in theory, how many of us actually do it? We give far too much credence to spontaneously-produced thoughts that we give away the power to control our mind.
Of course, there are programs – many free – that can teach the foundational elements of mindfulness. There are plenty of zero-cost educational tools and apps online. In other words, there are plenty of things to teach you how to be mindful.
4. Seek human contact
Being in touch with people that we care for has a magical way of reducing a multitude of stressors. Just ask any mom or dad that comes home after a long, hard day at work and is immediately greeted and embraced by their adoring children.
Spend some time with a friend, call a family member, have a date night with your spouse. Do something to take your mind off of the stress. There are plenty of things to do.
Or, if you prefer, try getting a massage to help alleviate the physical effects that stress has caused on your body. Massages, especially from a massive therapist or other professional, has a wonderful way of dissipating stress – both from body and mind.
5. Write down your thoughts
Some people abhor the thought of “keeping a journal,” thinking it strange or unnecessary. However, many find that once their thoughts are written down, they feel a sense of relief.
Aside from the fact that research affirms the stress-reducing effects of keeping a journal, it is perhaps the best way to unload your thoughts without judgment. Writing down thoughts also has a way of promoting clarity of thought.
Journaling is a great way of organizing your thoughts – a benefit that cannot be overstated. When our thoughts are jumbled, it almost always leads to stress. We try to rationalize our way out if these confusing thoughts, only to realize our inability to do so. A journal helps to solve this problem.