With all of the commitments that we have in our day-to-day schedules it is often easy to become stressed out. Of course no one likes to be hit with the anxiety and pressure that ensues, but what many people don’t realize is just how important stress management can be to living a long and healthy life.
Stress Related Syndromes
Many health professionals have studied the lasting effects that stress can have on our minds and bodies and found that abnormal responses cause various diseases or disorders. The affects are not only associated with our mental health and can influence virtually any organ system in the body on both transient and chronic levels. According to WebMD, the top five problems related to stress include:
- Health Disease – Stress can directly increase heart rate and blood flow, and can cause the release of cholesterol and triglycerides into the blood stream.
- Asthma – Many studies have shown that stress can worsen the condition of asthma and some evidence suggests that a parent’s chronic stress can increase the risk of their children developing asthma.
- Obesity – Stress causes higher levels of a hormone called cortisol, which seems to increase the amount of fat that is deposited in the abdomen.
- Diabetes – Stress can worsen diabetes because it increases the likelihood of bad behaviors such as unhealthy eating and excessive drinking. It also seems to raise the glucose levels of people with type 2 diabetes directly.
- Headaches – Stress is considered one of the most common triggers for headaches and is not limited to just tension headaches but also relates to migraines as well.
Other issues related to stress include depression and anxiety, gastrointestinal problems and Alzheimer’s. We know that all of these conditions have the possibility of shortening our lifespan. But did you know stress can actually accelerate aging and lead to premature death as well? One study compared the DNA of mothers who were under high amounts of stress and compared them with women who were not. The researchers found that a particular region of the chromosomes showed stress seemed to accelerate the aging process from about 9 to 17 years.
Stress Management Tactics
Simply reading some of this information can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. The risk of developing these diseases and conditions can be minimized or even eliminated by taking control of how we manage the situations around us. Here are a few simple actions you can take that can not only contribute to a healthier mental and physical lifestyle, but also make you happy.
Identify the sources
Controlling your stress begins with this critical step. Until you recognize your contributions in creating or maintaining stress, your levels will remain outside of your control. Because the symptoms we experience are often combinations of thoughts, feelings and behaviors this action can be complex and involve time for self-reflection. Ask questions that help you diagnose the issue through examining your habits, attitudes and excuses. Many professional sources, including the American Psychological Association (APA), recommend scribing your experiences to help you identify the pressure points in your life. By keeping track of instances when you feel strung out, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Evaluate how they made you feel both physically and emotionally, what your responses were and remedies. Like many good project managers you will be able to take that information and create an action plan to start improving how you deal with the demands.
Build Strong Relationships
Anyone who has been in a fight with a friend or has broken up with a partner, which includes virtually everyone, knows that relationships can impact our emotions and stress levels. Research has found that negative reactions with a spouse cause immediate changes in stress-sensitive hormones. Strong relationships generally relate to less conflicts and in turn less anxiety. In addition, your personal network can serve as a safety net for when you are experiencing a difficult situation by supporting you and pointing out logical solutions for your situation.
Walk It Off
Although it may be the last thing on your mind in a frustrating moment, one of the best things for your mind and body is to take a hike. Take a few minutes to regroup before you react then reconsider. By taking a quick walk around the office building or neighborhood, or by engaging in some other type of physical activity, you are able to release some of the anger. Exercise has the added bonus of increasing the production of endorphins which naturally raises your mood. Add a quick workout to your action plan, it is a simple step that can go a long way in reducing stress levels.
Rest Your Mind
Not getting enough sleep at night is a significant symptom of stress. According to the latest results of an annual study conducted by APA, stress keeps more than 40% of adults lying awake at night. Do your best to set a regular sleep schedule, cut back on stimulants and items with caffeine, and remove distractions from your bedroom. In addition to walking off stressful situations, you can also engage in yoga and relaxation exercises that not only reduce tension but also boost immune functioning.
Accept The Things You Can’t Change
Helpguide.org, a trusted nonprofit resource for all different kinds of health issues, provides a life-cycle of stress management that can help you with your action plan. One of the best recommendations the experts make is to recognize that some sources of stress are unavoidable, as many of them come from natural life events. In such cases, the best way to cope is to accept things for the way they are by living out some of those common phrases that often show up in inspiring speeches and quotes:
- Don’t try to control the uncontrollable
- Look for the upside
- Share your feelings
- Learn to forgive
Managing stress properly can do wonders for your work life balance. During implementation of your personal action plan consider exploring gadgets that can help you track your health and wellness with some having the capability to monitor multiple of the tactics listed here such as sleep and exercise efforts. It's true there will never be enough hours in the day to check everything off your list, but you don't have to let that affect your mental and physical health. Take these valuable steps to reduce stress now and extend the time you have to enjoy life with loved ones.
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