Are you feeling increased stress these days? If so, you’re not alone. Stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. Turn on any news station and you’ll see that today’s chronic stressful events have taken a toll on society as a whole. On an individual level, people of all ages are suffering and trying their best to cope with many stressful situations.
In years past, you may have had to deal with a stressful situation from time to time, but your body and mind had a chance to recover before being hit again. These days, people are subjected to stressful situations and content on a continual basis.
Stressful news is streaming 24/7, 365 days a year, with no break from it. Financial turmoil, social unrest and a whole host of stress factors can constantly bombard you day after day.
So what can you do about it? Sadly, some people try to cope with it by turning to harmful addictions or even contemplate suicide. A better way would be to understand how stress works so you can regain control and start living a healthier, happier life.
It’s important to distinguish between stress that is avoidable and stress that is unavoidable. An example of unavoidable stress would be if the company you work for goes under without any prior notice and you’re left unemployed. Or maybe you suddenly become a caretaker for an elderly parent.
However, much of our stress is avoidable and is of our own doing. Maybe we have a job we hate and need to make a change. Maybe we hang on to anger when something happens that we don’t agree with. Maybe we neglect our health. All of these are within our control and avoidable.
Take time to analyze your top stress factors and recognize where your stress is coming from. Ask yourself if there’s anything you can do about it. Then eliminate or minimize stress factors within your control. As Hans Selye says, “It’s not stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it.” So let’s look at some ways to react to stress to help prevent the damaging health effects stress can have on mind and body.
It’s easy to feel like a victim, but your outlook and handling of the situation can make a big difference. Chronic stress can have health consequences that range from anxiety and depression to heart disease, cancer and other serious diseases. What helps people to overcome hardships is to assess the stressful situation and forge ahead with purpose as opposed to panic. Make a decision about what you want to see happen with your reactions and actions as you confront stress in your life.
Are you using any negative coping mechanisms to deal with stress such as eating, drinking or spending too much? These behaviors will only make stress worse. And try not to snap at others or rant on social media — you’ll regret it later. Once you know what outcomes you want for your reactions, you can devise a plan to make that happen.
Take good care of yourself. To calm your reactions, you might want to take 5-10 minutes to meditate and practice deep breathing. This will help calm you down and allow you to think more clearly. Also set boundaries to avoid having to deal with negative people and toxic situations. Social media and news can contribute to getting riled up, so limiting exposure may be helpful.
Guard your thoughts. Keep thoughts as positive as possible because they will influence your mood and ability to handle stressful situations. William James said, “The greatest weapon against against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
Next, you might want to jot down some actions you will take to deal with the stress. Write down the facts about what is happening. You might rate each action item in priority of importance.
Take time to reflect on your writing. By writing down every option, it’s easier to see what the results might be. Then make a plan and don’t hesitate to get the support and help you need. These steps should help you to be more calm and create a workable action plan for dealing with the stress you face.
What about you? What stress are you facing? We encourage you to engage regularly in stress-relieving measures. Don’t only use them when you’re already stressed. If you integrate them into your life consistently, it can help you increase your ability to deal with stressful situations and avoid the damaging health consequences.