Are you filled with fear or stress? Do you find it more challenging to enjoy life these days? You are not alone. We recently faced unprecedented times, and virtually everyone faces some type of struggle. And that causes stress.
For those who are unaware, stress is a byproduct of physical, chemical, or emotional factors that trigger mental or emotional tension. Good and bad stress both trigger a chemical response in the body.
This response causes it to become filled with epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. All of these chemicals play a role in the fight or flight response. Fight or flight can either motivate us to get things done or drive us to engage in acts of self-preservation.
To help further put this into perspective, let’s take a look at examples of how one might react when they encounter good or bad stress. If you’re late filing your taxes, the good stress that you feel is what will likely motivate you to get them done and sent off to the Internal Revenue Service. After all, doing so will help you get a tax refund sooner or, at the very least, avoid a late penalty.
Bad stress, on the other hand, would be something akin to losing your job and wondering how you will pay your bills. In either of these two scenarios, the fight or flight response will influence how individuals will react under these circumstances. Unfortunately, many people today are dealing with bad stress, which is often caused by family, financial, or chronic health problems.
What You Might Not Know About Stress
In some cases, bad stress can give way to anxiety and create yet even more problems for some individuals. According to a study published by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 18 percent of Americans are struggling with generalized anxiety, social anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And all too often, these various forms of anxiety invariably lead to chronic health problems, some of which include
- A weakened immune system
- Poor digestive health
- Cardiovascular disease
Too much stress in one’s life not only causes these health problems but also makes them worse in many cases. In a study published by Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a nationally ranked academic medical center in Chicago, IL, researchers found that stress causes a myriad of chronic diseases and also intensifies disease-related symptoms.
What Is the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?
Despite being thought of as the same, there is a difference between stress and anxiety. In short, stress is a response to a threat, which can be either real or perceived. As far as anxiety, it is a mental health disorder typically caused by prolonged and unresolved stress.
Of course, these differences do not negate the fact that anxiety and stress can cause individuals to become so crippled with fear that it significantly disrupts their life. Whether the official classification is stress or anxiety, nearly 10 percent of American adults have admitted to having at least one specific fear, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The percentage is even higher among teenagers, with more than 15 percent admitting to struggling with one or more fears, the study goes on to note. Lastly, the same study reported that 0.9 percent of those living in fear have agoraphobia. And 7.1 percent have severe social anxiety.
11 Ways to Enjoy Life and Say Goodbye to Fear and Stress
Now that we have a better understanding of how stress, anxiety, and general fear can take a toll on your ability to enjoy life. So let’s take a look at eleven things that you can start doing today to prevent such irrational feelings from spiraling out of control:
1. Embrace the Fear
Whether you choose to refer to it as stress or fear, one of the best things that you can do to prevent it from taking over your life is to embrace it. Sure, this might sound counterproductive, but there is credible evidence that proves doing so is beneficial.
Learning to face and work through your fears will keep them from morphing into physical ailments and causing worse mental health problems. For example, if financial trouble is a source of stress, instead of worrying, consider seeking the expertise of a financial planner who can help you organize your finances.
2. Give Your Fears a Name
Many people in America and around the world struggle with generalized anxiety. This widespread concern indicates there is a plurality of things that cause fear. If this is something that resonates with you, you will be happy to know that naming your specific fears can help loosen the tight grip that they would otherwise have over you.
And it is easy to do, insofar as it comes down to either enumerating your fears verbally or writing them down in a journal.
3. Distract Yourself From Your Fears
Once you have learned to embrace and name your fears, the next step should entail finding ways to distract yourself from them for at least a few hours each day. Some of the more popular ways to distract yourself from fear include reading a great book, watching movies, or spending time with friends and family.
4. Say Goodbye to Excuses
All too often, people will purposely deny themselves an opportunity to live a truly fulfilled life because of fear. And many will make excuses to justify doing so.
For example, those who struggle with agoraphobia will often convince themselves that it is unsafe to go outside. What they often fail to realize, however, is that staying cooped up inside their home prevents them from getting fresh air and limits sun exposure. For reference, sun exposure helps the body produce vitamin D, which naturally strengthens teeth and bones.
And the benefits associated with sun exposure do not end there. According to a study published by Science Direct, a leading online resource for information related to scientific, technical, and medical research, sun exposure can positively alter mood, behavior, and even cognitive abilities. Indeed, saying goodbye to excuses can sometimes improve your life in more ways than one.
5. Positive Visualization
Many people will give up on achieving specific goals without ever putting forth an effort, often feeling that they won’t be successful. Whether you’re trying to land your dream job or secure a better position with your current employer, for example, you should envision yourself being successful in all of your endeavors.
After all, whether you believe that you can or can’t do something, you will find that you’re right either way. Striving for goals is one more way that you can challenge yourself and enjoy life more.
6. Quit Smoking
If you’re struggling with low-level or chronic stress caused by world events or personal problems, smoking might offer some short-term relief from stress, but it can also wreak havoc on your physical health. After all, smoking can adversely affect cardiovascular and respiratory health, both of which can make life far less enjoyable.
Physicians and exercise kinesiologists agree. Engaging in physical activity can be just as effective in easing feelings of anxiety as some prescription-based medications. Furthermore, a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day can greatly improve cardiovascular and respiratory health.
Regular exercise can even lead to healthy, radiant skin. After all, the more you sweat, the less dirt and oil remains trapped in your pores. And this is a good thing. That’s because studies show that when individuals are confident in their appearance, they tend to have a positive outlook on life and are genuinely happier.
Similar to exercise, meditation can help distract you from feelings of anxiousness while improving your physical health. According to a study published by Psychology Today, meditation can make it easier for some individuals to cope with many of the symptoms synonymous with anxiety and even depression. A separate study published by the National Institutes of Health revealed that meditation also contributes to the following:
- Reduces stress
- Eases feelings of fatigue
- Soothes chronic pain
9. Consuming a healthier diet
Consuming a healthy, well-balanced diet can trigger favorable changes in your brain. One such benefit is increased serotonin production. Ramping up serotonin enables you to enjoy life and less fearful about what the future holds.
Further, healthy eating habits can help fend off obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, including viruses. According to a study published by Harvard Health Publishing, a healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise help strengthen a weakened immune system.
Aromatherapy, which includes the use of essential oils, such as lavender, geranium, and frankincense. For example, these oils reduce the natural buildup of adrenaline that we experience when we feel fearful. That said, as you inhale these fragrant scents, your blood pressure and heart rate will start to stabilize.
For these reasons, aromatherapy is ideal for those struggling with low-level or chronic stress. Beyond that, there are physical health benefits that come with aromatherapy, including helping the body to fight off bacteria and certain viruses, according to a study published by Johns Hopkins Medicine.
11. Drinking Tea
Along with helping you to get a better night’s sleep, drinking chamomile tea is a great way to soothe frayed nerves caused by stress. For this reason, it is a go-to for many individuals struggling with generalized anxiety.
Final Thoughts on Releasing Fear So You Can Enjoy Life Again
Whether your fears stem from health concerns, financial or relationship problems, or generalized anxiety, they can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. Therefore, you must quickly bring them back under control. Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent them from getting the best of you and forcing you into an existence filled with fear.