Stress. We all have it. Whether it’s due to work demands, economic pressures, job insecurity, family difficulties, the list goes on. But, for the sake of our physical and mental well-being, and many other reasons, we should take reasonable steps to manage our stress.
Why is it important to manage our stress?
Stress is our body’s response to external pressures. It includes the many demands and pressures that we all experience to some degree each day. Sometimes stress is beneficial, for keeping us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger. Or, it can be detrimental if stress becomes prolonged or if it continues without relief. Stress activates our sympathetic nervous system, releasing stress hormones throughout the body. These hormones give us energy when we need it, but can cause other changes in the body as well. Long-term stress can suppress our immune system, and can lead to physical distress, causing headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and even problems sleeping. Long-term stress can lead to depression, panic attacks, or other forms of anxiety and worry. It can even bring about (or worsen) certain symptoms or diseases.
How prevalent is stress today? Consider the following information, from an article on WebMd:
- Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
- Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
- Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
- The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.
Six tips for getting stress under control (also courtesy of webmd):
- Identify sources of stress. Try to figure out what’s causing your stress. Too many commitments? Once you identify the sources of stress, try to minimize these as much as possible.
- Talk it out. Talk about it to a friend or family member. It’s good for our mental health.
- Take time out. Before you reach your breaking point, take time out for solitude. Take time away from the cares and responsibilities of life. Go for a walk, sit outside. Clear your head.
- Set limits. Never hesitate to say “no” before you take on more commitments. It’s important to prioritize; saying “no” can help give you more control over your life.
- Try exhaling. Breathing can affect your psychological state, making a stressful moment increase or diminish in intensity. Often, people who are anxious or upset take shallow breaths or unconsciously hold their breath. By paying attention to your breathing, particularly exhaling during tense moments, you will feel more relaxed.
- Exercise daily. Exercise is thought to increase the secretion of endorphins in the brain that induce feelings of peacefulness. Many studies show that exercise, along with the boosted endorphin levels, really does increase confidence and self-esteem and reduce tension. Exercise also helps you focus on something else for awhile.
The effects of stress on your body (webmd.com)
- How stress, anxiety and depression affect your health (webmd.com)