Stress is a physiological response in our bodies that prepare us for fight or flight. When our bodies perceive a threat or a demand, it solicits a response. Stress is that response.
Stress can be negative as well as positive depending on the situation. We are more susceptible to stress when major life events are happening, and when we have poor self-care. When stress is ongoing and in a chronic state, its impact is negatively felt physically, mentally and emotionally.
Chronic stress can affect the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. The immune system is also negatively impacted by prolonged stress resulting in sickness. Other negative effects of stress are heart disease, strokes, hypertension, obesity, depression, headaches, insomnia and frequent mood swings to name a few.
The goal of stress management should be to reduce or eliminate its negative impact on our health. To do this, we must have self-awareness of when we are stressed. We need to identify the sources or causes of stress as well as our body’s response to it. Indicators may be rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling of being overwhelmed.
Once we have identified that stress is present, we must have a plan of negating its negative effect. There are many things one can do to reduce stress that are easy to implement. Improving the quality of sleep, having proper nutrition, and eliminating cigarettes and alcohol are things that can be a positive step in stress management.
In developing ways to cope with the feelings of being overwhelmed, set clear, realistic and manageable goals. Prioritizing with a clear focus of where energy should be directed is very empowering. Focusing energy on things you can change helps with stress reduction.
Engaging in activities that bring solace, joy, happiness, peace and a sense of contentment should be another objective. Meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, self-hypnosis, aromatherapy, and massage are great stress reducers. Physically engaging in aerobic exercise such as jogging keeps stress at bay.
Another terrific way to relieve stress is to return to activities and behaviors which were previously enjoyable. Listening to music, volunteering, shopping, playing with pets, reading, and watching comedy are some great options. Remember, laughter is the best medicine.
If none of these suggestions help to prevent, manage, or eliminate your stress, don’t hesitate to reach out to your health professional or a therapist.