As inhabitants of a fast-paced and highly unpredictable world, we all experience stress to some degree. According to researchers, stress occurs when environmental demands exceed the individual’s ability to cope. In our every day lives, whether it’s at home, at work, or with other people, we often come across stressful situations.
Stress is not necessarily a bad thing; often, it keeps us motivated and productive.
However, studies have shown that too much stress over a long period of time can lead to high levels of anxiety, depression, and negative physiological consequences.
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What Causes Stress?
External causes of stress may include:
- Financial problems
- Family and friends
- Leading a busy life
- Major life changes
- Personal relationship issues
- Loss of a beloved one
- Traumatic events
Internal causes of stress may include:
- Inability to accept uncertainty
- Unrealistic expectations
- Need to be perfect
- Lack of assertiveness
How Does Stress Affect the Body?
Chronic stress can have a negative effect on almost all parts of the body – among other problems it can cause stiffness, neck pain, headaches, calf cramps, fatigue, and a diminished immune system.
According to the American Institute of Stress in New York, 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects due to stress, and 75 percent to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders.
Stress can also affect our mental state and emotional well-being. When we are stressed, we are more likely to be anxious or depressed and have trouble concentrating on a task or organizing our thoughts. Needless to say, a stressful life is very rarely a happy one.
How Can You Prevent Stress?
Balance your lifestyle.
Engaging in regular physical exercise, eating well and nutritiously, getting adequate sleep and rest, and maintaining a social support network are integral to having a balanced lifestyle. If you find yourself lacking in one or more of these areas, re-evaluate your priorities and consider making a change.
Practice yoga and meditation
Stress management and prevention has a lot to do with the state of the mind. By practicing yoga, self-awareness and mindfulness, you allow yourself a bit of breathing room whenever you feel too overwhelmed. Every now and then, find a quiet place without any distractions and sit down in a cross-legged position.
For at least five minutes straight, try to focus solely on your breathing. Let your body go loose and shake off any negative thoughts. When we consciously slow our breath rates, we tell our bodies to relax.
Exercise pumps up your endorphins (chemicals that make you feel happy and energized) and allows the body to expend energy. Exercise not only makes you healthier and more capable of handling stressful situations at their worst, but improves your mood. Many of us don’t make time for regular exercise because we don’t feel that it is helpful or necessary.
But it’s actually one of the best stress management tools. To establish a regular exercise routine, find something you love (if you don’t like the gym, go running at the park or locate a nearby pool) and stick to it. Set goals every week and find an exercise buddy to help you stayed motivated.
Caffeine, sugar, and stress do not make a good combination. Blood sugar imbalances can cause mood swings, fatigue, and poor concentration. Poor eating habits can lead to a lowered immunity and can actually increase stress levels. To avoid unnecessary stress, try not to skip meals, get your daily share of fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of water.
Learn how to say no
Do you feel obligated to engage in extra activities in your professional or personal life even when it’s the last thing you want to do? Stress often happens when we feel a loss of control over our circumstances or overburdened by responsibilities. Take control of your environment and make time to relax.
Life is all about compromise. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do, break it down. Don’t try to tackle everything at once; better to focus on one task and get it done to the best of your ability than to have too many things on your plate and not do them well.
Stress Management Begins With You
While circumstances and stressful situations are often out of our control, how we deal with them is not. Anyone with the right mindset and a good amount of determination can learn to reduce the amount of stress in their life and live a happier and healthier life.
The next time you feel stressed, take a step back and assess the situation. Sometimes managing stress can be as simple as taking a couple of deep breaths and realizing that you are fully capable of handling life’s difficulties.