Stress Reduction And Stress Management

Whether you’re a seasoned rat-race runner or a spectator just trying to get by, you’ve likely encountered the unique challenges of contemporary society. Modern technology, an evolving culture and an unpredictable economy all contribute to a world that is ever-changing. In order to keep up, you’ve got to step up, oftentimes without an end in sight. One of the most prevalent side effects of this perpetual motion is physical and emotional stress.

The body becomes stressed as a natural reaction to external threats. Normal life events, work, relationships or unexpected changes can cause your body and your mind to feel stressed. If you are experiencing these on a daily basis, you are likely living with a considerable amount of tension and anxiety. Because prolonged stress can cause you to develop other health problems, learning how to reduce and manage your stress is key to keeping you happy and healthy.

Stress and Your Health

When your body is stressed, it reacts with a short-term burst of energy. Hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, use your bloodstream to control how your brain produces this energy. Adrenaline speeds up your heart rate, allowing the body to respond more quickly. Cortisol gives energy and focus to the brain by increasing the body’s blood sugar level and suppressing other complex systems, such as the digestive or immune systems.

While this setup is great for responding to emergency situations, it can be harmful to the body if it is maintained for prolonged periods of time. A variety of short-term and long term-effects can come from extensive, unregulated stress. Some of these include health problems that will affect the:

  • digestive system: Stress hormones affect the acid levels in the stomach, resulting in stomach pain or diarrhea. These same hormones can also increase your appetite, making you more prone to overeating and weight gain.
  • cardiovascular system: Stress hormones raise your heart rate and increase your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • immune system: In periods of stress, the body suppresses the immune system to give more energy and resources to the brain. Of course, suppressing the immune system for any length of time makes the body more susceptible to developing infection or other health conditions.
  • other systems: Stress can aggravate skin conditions, such as psoriasis and acne, and even trigger asthma attacks.

Stress Management Tips

With so many adverse side effects, finding ways to manage stress in your life is key to maintaining your overall health. While everybody responds to stress in different ways, the following basic principles of stress management can be helpful for almost everyone:

  • acceptance: Your boss isn’t a great communicator. You spend a small fortune on gasoline. Every traffic light is red when you’re in a hurry. Life sometimes seems to be stacked against you, but it’s nothing personal. The more you can accept the things you can’t change, the less you will stress about them. Look for the upside of life and practice forgiveness when possible. Practicing acceptance and keeping up a positive outlook will help you reduce the stress in your life.
  • communication: Sometimes, stress can arise because of a lack of communication. Telling others how you feel and when you are incapable of doing something is important to communicating effectively and reducing your stress.
  • control: Try to avoid unnecessary stress whenever possible. Most people carry a full load between work, family and daily obligations. In some cases, these busybodies will still take on more responsibilities if asked. Knowing your limits and learning how to say “no” will help to keep you operating within your means. Likewise, taking control of your environment will help you to avoid extra stress. By simply keeping away from stressful people or situations, you can exert control over how you deal with the uncontrollable parts of life.
  • mediation: If you find yourself in a stressful situation, try to find ways to make it less stressful. Breathing deeply or stepping away from the stressful situation can sometimes be enough to reduce the stress you face. If you can, take some time to close your eyes and consciously relax while breathing deeply. This type of meditation can give you some much-needed perspective while also helping you to calm down in the face of stress.
  • prevention: The best way to beat stress is to start with a healthy mind and body. Calming activities, such as yoga or meditation, help you to designate time for relaxation and contemplation. Similarly, eating well-rounded meals throughout the day gives you the energy and nourishment you need to meet life’s challenge. Keep in mind that part of eating health is limiting your intake of sugar, alcohol and caffeine to keep your blood sugar and hydration levels steady. Couple healthy eating with exercise (at least three times a week for 30 minutes a day) to release tension and anxiety. By making healthier lifestyles choices, you create a stabilized body that is better equipped to deal with the turbulence of stress.

The key idea in dealing with stress in the present is not to run away from it. Meeting stress head-on will not only help you to process and remove it more quickly, but it will also give you the tools and experience you need to effectively deal with future stress. By looking more closely at the stress in your life and taking steps toward stress reduction, you are making an investment in your quality of life overall.