When you hear the word stress, what do you think? Many people think about stress as something they just have to deal with. They understand it may interfere with their peace, but they are resigned that life is just that way. Stress happens.
Here’s a question to think about for a moment: Do you think of stress as a good thing? Most people will quickly respond with an emphatic “NO!” However, you may be surprised that sometimes stress can be good for you. Sometimes stress is that little extra motivation that is needed to complete a task you may not particularly want to work on, or you may not know the best way to proceed.
Successfully dealing with stress provides a feeling of satisfaction and the belief that you can handle challenging situations. Stress helps us develop and grow stronger is some situations. A certain amount of stress is necessary for an organism to thrive.
When faced with stressful situations, your body responds with a fight or flight response. While this response is helpful for an animal that might become a predator’s meal, it has limited utility in our modern lives. In fact, if your stress becomes chronic, it could cause serious health challenges.
Many studies have shown that too much stress can contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental disorders such as depression or anxiety as reported by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Now that you understand the effects of stress, it’s important to understand how to minimize excessive or harmful stress.
While many circumstances might be beyond your control, the way you respond to a situation is totally within your control. You have a choice to how you can approach stressful situations. Here are a few things to consider:
Actively seek a solution.
Those who have the most success at controlling stress are the ones who focus on taking charge of situations and seeking solutions. If you tend to avoid challenges and wait until they only get worse, you’re compounding your stress instead of reducing it. Don’t procrastinate to avoid having to deal with the situation. Actively look for ways to manage rather than to ignore.
Your perception matters.
Choose how you see stressful circumstances. What you think about a circumstance has the most effect on you and your future in dealing with the situation. Make a decision – will you be a victim, and feel worse, or will you take action to do what you can to make it better? Your perception will shape your reality.
Relax to help diffuse your body’s stress response. It may seem difficult to exercise direct control over many aspects of your physical stress response, but make it mind over matter. You can take control over your breathing, both the rate and the depth to manage any physical symptoms you are feeling. Sitting in a quiet place and taking slow, deep breaths can make all the difference in the world. Take a slow, deep breath, hold it for two seconds, and then release it slowly.
Practice mindfulness. According to mindful.org, mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses.”
Mindfulness is not something you have to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it. All it really takes is total focus on the task at hand. If you’re folding laundry, you should only be thinking about folding laundry, not thinking about your spouse, work, bills, or anything else. It’s essentially impossible to be stressed in the present moment. In reality, when you’re stressed, you’re either stressing about the past or future. You’re either getting upset about something that’s over or worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet.
Get up, move around, dance, do some exercise. A fight or flight response dumps a lot of chemicals into your body that get everything revved up. Burn them off with a healthy dose of movement. Do what feels best to you. Let the healthy endorphins help the way they were intended. There’s no reason to overdo it or push too hard, but moving your body around in a vigorous fashion will make you feel a lot better.
Take care of your body.
Speaking of movement, take good care of yourself. Most of us tend to marginalize the importance of healthy diet, exercise, restful sleep. Your body needs nutritious foods to have a clean energy source. It also needs the proper rest to de-stress, recharge, and heal from the rigors of the day.
Use other parts of your brain.
Taking care of our bodies are super important, but so is taking care of our brains. We need to keep our brains active, and keep them from getting too used to doing the same thing day in and day out. Find some stress-free activities than you can enjoy regularly. Maybe golf is your thing. Maybe volunteering makes you feel better. Find a new hobby that engages your mind, like chess or learning the guitar. Have fun with it.
You can usually feel the stress beginning to brew, instead of preparing for the negative, be proactive. It is much easier to get your stress level under control when it first starts to rise. When your stress is reaching maximum levels, it’s almost too late at that point to regain control. Know your personal alarms and be ready to use the tools you have learned.
It’s never too late to take action and begin to learn how to resist day to day stress. Stress can be very damaging. It will reduce the quality of your life and may even shorten your lifespan. Take the necessary steps to get your stress level as low as reasonably possible. Stress resistance is one important tool in your toolbox for a peaceful life.
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.