Stress is a silent killer. Many of us have experienced the intense psychological havoc that stress can cause on our emotional well-being. What is less well understood is the devastating effect that unchecked chronic stress can have on our physical health as well. Extended periods of stress can actually make you physically sick. The effects on your body could be life-threatening if not addressed.
To manage stress effectively, you need to have a good understanding of what causes stress in your life. You need to put in place strategies and tactics that will help you navigate your stress in a healthy and responsible way.
Stress is actually a perfectly natural way for your body to respond to certain high-pressure situations in life. Stress could be seen as a defense mechanism that has evolved in humans, and other animals, over time to keep you safe.
Your body produces stress hormones when you are in a perceived situation of threat to get you ready to either fight, and defend yourself, or run away from the threat. This fight or flight response was extremely important to ensure our survival from physical threats in more ancient times.
In today’s day and age, however, even non-life-threatening situations trigger this response which can lead to extremely negative side effects. Humans are not meant to be under stress for a prolonged period of time. The Fight or Flight response mechanism is meant as a quick way for you to get out of a sticky situation. It was not meant as a day-to-day state of being.
What is the impact of Stress?
If left unaddressed for years, long-term and even short-term stress can have an extremely negative effect on your mental and physical wellbeing. Some of the effects could include:
Loss of motivation
Loss of memory
Insomnia or other sleep-pattern disruptions
Learning and problems with cognition
Risk of health issues such as heart attack
Weakened immune system
high blood pressure
Aches and pains
Heart disease, heart attacks, or strokes
Diabetes, obesity, or eating disorders
Impotence or other sexual dysfunction
Decreased immune defense
How to Manage Stress
In our fast-paced world where the outcome is so highly valued, and everything needs to be done right away, it is almost impossible to eliminate stress from your life. Short of leaving a stressful job completely, you will have to learn how to manage your stress in a healthy and productive way. Stress could be used as a positive driving force in your life if fully understood and harnessed correctly.
Here are some stress management training tips:
Get to the route of your stress
The first step in managing your stress is recognizing what is actually causing the stress. Sometimes this could prove a bit difficult as there might be more than one stress factor you need to dissect.
Take some time to think about what is really causing you stress.
Write down the cause of the stress, and what the issue is, and outline some practical solutions to help you mitigate the situation. The feeling of taking control, and facing the problem head-on is often a great source of stress relief in itself.
Make the necessary changes
You need to ask yourself: Am I taking on too much? Can I hand over some responsibilities to someone else? Is this a priority right now? Is this a situation I can control or is it out of my control? Once you have answered these questions, start actively making the necessary changes to take control back.
Lean on your support system
Building and talking to your support system is one of the most effective ways to combat the effects of stress. Humans are generally speaking social animals. A very good way to decompress is to talk to a friend about the issue you are facing.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, whether at work or at home, talk about it. The more you bottle your stress, the more it impacts your life.
Eat healthy and exercise
This might go without saying, but your eating habits and commitment to physical activity go a long way to dictating your overall mood and mental wellbeing. Exercise can help manage the effects of stress by producing endorphins that boost your mood. After a stressful day at the office, make sure to get in a workout, and try to stay away from junk food.
Take a break
Whenever you are starting to feel overwhelmed, make sure you prioritize taking a break to clear your head. Taking a break gives you the opportunity to take yourself out of the stressful situation for a while, look at the situation from an objective viewpoint and refocus your priorities.
Go easy on yourself
Trying to control everything increases stress levels. Learning to accept the areas that you can’t control can really help ease off the pressure that you put on yourself.
Stress is a silent killer, but it doesn’t need to be. By understanding its place and function, and by implementing the tips discussed above you can harness the effects of stress for good.
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