We have a tendency to accept stress as an integral part of life. If we know we’ll soon face a big challenge, if we’re anticipating a major life change, or even if we know parking will be hard to find at the market, we practically forecast the degree of accompanying stress. This condition becomes so natural that we lose sight of the fact that we actually can reduce stress and anxiety in our lives. Learn to relieve stress with the proper techniques and perspective and truly take charge of your own life.
Stress. It’s a far too common term in our contemporary vocabulary. From phrases like “job stress” and “holiday stress” to “teen stress” and “relationship stress”, examples turn up throughout our lives. If you reflect on your day so far, you can probably apply the word “stress” to more than one experience. It may be stress in the workplace, home, or during your commute. While a moderate dose of the stuff is often just the thing to trigger improved performance, concentration, or effort, we easily let the effects of stress get away from us so that they become a predominantly negative presence. Symptoms of the latter include fatigue, nervousness, anger, anxiety, difficulty focusing, a stress disorder like changes in eating or sleeping patterns, stress-related illness, and the so-called “nervous habits” like nail biting. If you relate personally to one or more of these conditions and you’re experiencing increased stress, any of the following are examples of conditions (whether major or minor) that may be a cause of stress:
A significant life change like marriage or a new job
- A challenging or grieving time concerning illness or loss of a loved one
- Taking on too much responsibility
- Unwholesome food
- Erratic sleep
- Insufficient pure water and fresh air
- A routine of watching the news first thing in the morning and last thing at night
- An unusually busy time of year such as the holiday season
Stress and anxiety are noticeably inconvenient and unpleasant, but the long-term impact can lead to very real dangers. To begin with, stress and health are immediately linked. Examples include muscle tension, high blood pressure, and susceptibility to illness as strain runs your body down. You are likely to become less productive personally and professionally as anxiety dominates your focus. You become less present in your own life—less able to acknowledge and appreciate beauty and good fortune. Finally, though you may feel like the lone victim of your stress, the reality is that the impact on those close to you is boundless. The term “stress contagion” refers to stress’s ability to spread to others, particularly children. Even though kids may not seem to understand your “adult” world, its pressures reach them through your body language, voice, temper, and general demeanor. Studies have shown that children from stressful environments have higher rates of sickness, proving the grave toll your stress may be taking on your sons and daughters.
Now that you’ve considered stress—how common the causes are and how dire its effects may be—you’re probably ready for a solution, for a stress management technique that will strip stress of the control it may have on your life. The good news is that you’ve already made the first step to reduce stress since the foundation of stress control is awareness. Stress will always exist, but once you recognize its presence, you’re on your way to reducing its impact and relieving stress. This awareness works in two ways: first, you target stress as the likely culprit behind many life imbalances, and thus, gain more control. Second, you increase your awareness of your own reaction to stress (emotionally and physically) and make steps toward regulating those responses. Remember that you (not your boss, the bills, or an approaching holiday) are in charge of your own stress level, and that you can even learn how to relieve stress by changing your physical response to tension. Consider a stress reducer like the practice of Biofeedback, a method that teaches conscious control over such unconscious conditions like blood pressure. Consider the simple practice of breathing when tensions rise— take a breath to give yourself time to respond and contemplate before your react. Furthermore, in your quest for awareness in coping with stress, remember these five points:
Be aware of your thoughts throughout the day. Determine what you can control and what is beyond your influence.
- Change the thoughts that bring stress. Redirect them in a more productive way.
- Are you resisting any of the ideas above? Beware of such a defeatist attitude—maintain an open mind instead.
- Notice how your stress levels have shifted as your thoughts have changed.
- Be constantly aware of your strength to transform your quality of life.
Most important in the evaluation of stress is the awareness that your heart is the area most affected by stress (from emotions to serious health conditions like heart attacks). So, consider stress levels and their relationship to love. Do a few minutes of breathing while placing your hands over your heart while you begin to visualize and feel the love and gratitude you have for people or animals in your life. Allow the power of your thoughts and feelings to shift you from worry and stress into a more neutral place, initially, that will close the floodgates to those stress hormones. Then choose to allow the energy of appreciation and joy to first of all fill your heart then feel it flowing into every cell of your being. Prevent emotional and physical problems by taking control of your mind. As you commit to decrease stress in your life think of it as a double bonus: less stress, more love!