De-stress Your Life

Is your life over-stressed?  Can’t seem to get a handle on all that you need to do?  Are too many bad circumstances ruining the good in life? 

The American Psychological Association did a survey (2007) prior to the current economic downturn and it showed 20% of the population experience extreme stress at least 15 days out of the month.  I am sure that number has at least doubled in the last few months. 

What is Stress?

Stress is the bodies way of responding to a perceived threat. The threat may be physical, being robbed at gun point; emotional, feeling rejected; loss of a job can threaten your security; or your kids failing in school can threaten their future and you perception of being a good parent. No matter what the source, when you perceive a threat, your nervous system releases stress hormones which prepare your body to take action to alleviate the emergency. 

Top Ten Life Stressers

  1. Death of a spouse
  2. Divorce
  3. Marriage separation
  4. Jail term
  5. Death of a close friend or relative
  6. Injury or illness
  7. Marriage conflict
  8. Loss of a job
  9. Marriage reconciliation
  10. Retirement

These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus – preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.

Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life. Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems including: heart disease, digestive problems, depression, obesity, skin conditions, autoimmune diseases, and sleep problems. 

How to Manage Stress

The word “manage” is a very important word in considering your stress.  Certain behaviors or ways of thinking can either magnify or reduce the effects of stress.  The include: having a pessimistic attitude about your life or circumstances, setting unrealistic expectations on yourself (e.g. perfectionism), not allowing yourself to accept uncertainty, and negative self-talk. Sometimes we may need professional help to overcome these negative characteristics.

Here are several things you can do immediately to reduce the negative impact of stress.

  1. Strengthen your relationships – good friends and family members who can help you think through your stresses and come up with positive steps to take are invaluable.
  2. Learn how to relax - Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity.
  3. Keep physically healthy – eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, exercise daily, and have a good social life.  These are the four basics of a healthy body.
  4. Learn how you process stress and how to make that more effective.  This may require seeing a counselor who can help you make these discoveries.