The old adage states that only two things are certain: death and taxes. But there is actually a third guaranteed factor in modern life: stress. Stress has become so commonplace for many people that April has been designated as Stress Awareness Month. This is the perfect time to focus your attention on yourself and handling the daily stresses that send your blood pressure through the roof and cause your eye to twitch. Here are some tips to recognizing the stressors in your life and how to do something about them before it gets too bad.
One of the things you need to recognize is that stress doesn’t just influence you mentally, but physically as well. Too much stress in your life can cause a variety of physical ailments such as stomachaches and even ulcers as well as serious headaches and depression. One of the most significant areas that many people don’t think about is sleep. If you are too stressed out, you may wind up with serious sleeping disorders that keep you from getting a good night’s rest. If that happens, the other physical problems associated with stress will only be exacerbated, leading to a never-ending cycle.
Stress can be triggered by what is known as the “fight or flight response.” This is the rush of hormones and adrenaline that increases your heart rate and blood pressure when you are in a dangerous situation, such as a physical altercation or a car wreck. However, this same physiological reaction can be caused by stress from work and home. Over long periods of time (say weeks, months, or even years), the cumulative effect of stress is to reduce your immune system. This leaves your body open to disease and infections which will only make your stress level worse, making it difficult if not impossible to fight back.
There are a few things that you can do to ease up on your stress levels. (Remember, it is impossible to eliminate all stress from your life.) But, you can recognize when things are not in your control and simply let them go. Do not agonize and replay moments that have already happened and don’t spend your whole time dreading things that could possibly happen. It can also be a bit of a cliché, but it can help to find your “happy place.” This is the mental picture of a place that relaxes you and causes the stress to melt away—it can be a peaceful stream or a quiet beach. But when stress starts to get to you, simply close your eyes and meditate on your happy place. This can let you refocus your attention on what you can impact and not on what you can’t.
The first thing you can do to help ease stress in your life is to improve your diet overall. Many people stress over poor body image and physical health problems. By eating better, you can help work on these issues as well. Sugar and caffeine are the two biggest culprits when it comes to ruining your diet. Instead, try foods that are high in antioxidants. Foods such as avocados, blueberries, and leafy greens such as kale and spinach are great ways to help feed your body and your brain and help regulate your bodily systems such as your blood sugar.
Going hand-in-hand with eating better is exercising. Doing something as simple as going for a walk can relax you more than you thought possible. Also, when you’re alone with your thoughts, some people are able to work through some of their stressors and put them into perspective. If this doesn’t sound like you, then you can go for a walk with a friend or family member. The company will help to relax you immensely and help give you a sounding board for your own stresses
The idea of relaxing is easier said than done. But if you don’t, the impact can be real. Our body has a “fight or flight” response to stressors such as conflict. It makes your heart rate and blood pressure go up. Do this enough each day and you’re right around the corner from a stroke or heart attack. To stop this, spend a few minutes each day relaxing. Find a quiet place at work, pop in your headphones, and listen to a relaxation/meditation album on your mp3 player. These can also be great ways to unwind at night if the stress in your life is keeping you from sleeping as you should.
This one many sound strange, but studies show that it actually works. When we live and work in an unkempt, untidy environment, it adds levels of subconscious stress to our lives. Even when you’re home trying to unwind in front of the television, you could subconsciously be stressing yourself out as you look around at the clutter that needs to be taken care of. This doesn’t have to be a major cleaning project. Set a timer and spend just fifteen minutes a day working to declutter your home and office and you will give yourself a sense of accomplishment that will also help knock out some of your underlying stresses.
A big source of stress can be work related. If you’re the type of person who lets your work pile up until the last minute, you’re headed for a stress-related crash. Instead, make a point to get organized. Spend a few minutes creating to-do lists and then stick with them. You will be amazed how just checking items off the list will help give you a sense of satisfaction and help you get rid of some of that stress. Also, consider shutting down the Internet and other distractors (like your phone and Facebook) so that you can get more work done and not feel like you are playing catch-up later.
Many people are finding that holistic and natural remedies for health problems actually work, sometimes better than more modern medicine. One stress reducer that many people are turning to is essential oils. Taking a few of these and applying them to your wrists or temples can help calm you and relax you. You can also add them to massage oils or bath salts and the smells and qualities of the oils will calm you more than you thought possible. (And while we’re at it, massages and soothing baths with or without essential oils are another great way to ease stress.) Our favorite essential oils include lavender, which is kind of a go-to oil, as well as chamomile, frankincense, rose, and vanilla.
If you’re feeling stressed out, this is the perfect time to try to identify the stressors in your life and do something about it. Easing your stress and finding new ways to relax are essential if you want to live a happy and full life.
One of the things that you absolutely can’t control is when you are injured due to the negligence of someone else, such as in an auto accident. But there is no need to let that level of stress wear you down so that you cannot recover. It is important, if this has happened to you, to turn over your problems to a professional attorney who can assist you in handling your case.
This post was updated on March 4, 2017.