Managing Stress: Part 1

Let’s face it, it’s a relevant part of daily life…

Stress occurs when you perceive the demands placed on you–such as work, school or relationships–exceed your ability to cope.

Some stress can be beneficial at times, producing a boost that provides the drive and energy to help people get through situations like exams or work deadlines. However, an extreme amount of stress can have health consequences, affecting the immune, cardiovascular, and neuroendocrine and central nervous systems, and take a severe emotional toll.

And small “stressors”, like emails, violent television shows, the news, etc… can often add up to negatively affect us.

Untreated chronic stress can result in serious health conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Research shows that stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity.

By finding positive, healthy ways to manage stress as it occurs, many of these negative health consequences can be reduced. Everyone is different, and so are the ways they choose to manage their stress. Some people prefer pursuing hobbies—gardening, playing music, creating artwork, while others find relief in more solitary activities, such as meditation, yoga, and walking.

Here are three healthy techniques that psychological research has shown to help reduce stress in the short- and long-term.

Take a break from the stressor
It may seem difficult to get away from a big work project, a crying baby, or a growing credit card bill. But when you give yourself permission to step away from it, you let yourself have time to do something else, which can help you have a new perspective or practice techniques to feel less overwhelmed. It’s important to not avoid your stress (those bills have to be paid sometime), but even just 20-minutes to take care of yourself is helpful.

Practical Tip: Schedule these times into your calendar, including workouts, daily walks, coffee with friends, etc., so you ensure you make the time for yourself.

The research keeps growing – exercise benefits your mind just as well as your body. We keep hearing about the long-term benefits of a regular exercise routine. But even a 20-minute walk, run, swim or dance session in the midst of a stressful time can give an immediate effect that can last for several hours.

Practical Tip: Have a plan, from how far you’re going to walk today, to what exercises you’ll be doing in the gym – this will ensure when you get there, you can “stress-less” and just follow the program.

Meditation and mindful prayer help the mind and body to relax and focus. Mindfulness can help people see new perspectives, develop self-compassion and forgiveness. When practicing a form of mindfulness, people can release emotions that may have been causing the body physical stress. Much like exercise, research has shown that even meditating briefly can reap immediate benefits.

Practical Tip: This doesn’t have to be complex. Simply sitting in a comfortable position and counting your deep breaths can be an excellent form of meditation that will help the body and mind relax. Just like anything else, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss how environmental stress from food and lifestyle choices can impact our health, and three steps to reduce those stressors.

Click HERE to read PART 2