Have you ever heard someone say “Oh I am stressed…” or have you felt this yourself?
We have all experienced “stress” but let us discuss what stress is, what causes it and what we can do about it. Stress is a physical or mental response to a real or perceived challenge (a stressor). A stressor is any real or perceived stimulus that causes our bodies to react to stress. Simply put, stressors are the cause and stress is the effect.
When stress levels are manageable our bodies are in balance our body functions well; however, a negative stress response creates a physiological reaction. Our body naturally has a “fight” or “flight” stress response that prepares us for challenges. Consider that during an acute stress response the following changes may occur: more blood flows to the brain and causes our senses to sharpen (vision, hearing), we start breathing more frequent and shallow breaths, our digestive system slows down, our immune system declines, muscles tighten, heart rate and blood pressure increase as well as other changes.
It is important for us to understand that this physiological response can happen for any real or perceived threat and it varies according to who we are, how we think, and it can be caused by virtually anything. Stressors are subjective and two people with the same stressor may react differently. Stressors may include dealing with change, relationships, frustrations, conflict, stressful environments, and overload.
In addition to immediate physiological responses, a negative stress response (distress) can cause many long-term health challenges including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, weight gain, hair loss, digestive problems, and impaired immunity.
We all experience “stress,” however, it is important that we maximize our lifestyle and daily behaviors to better understand our own personal stressors and stress less. Take a moment and consider, what are your top 3 “stressors?”
We need to understand our stressors and put them into the following categories:
- Un-important = avoid focusing on these stressors
- Important and controllable = act
- Important and uncontrollable = accept and positively cope
Consider the below stress management tools to act and/or positively cope:
- Sleep 7-9 hours daily (maximize your sleep by getting it all together)
- Eat well (unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, legumes, nuts, seeds)
- Move more through physical activity and exercise (do what you enjoy)
- Express your emotions healthfully (avoid anger and remain calm)
- Practice mindfulness and being present (focus on what you are doing and do your best)
- Engage with a support network (lean on other people you trust)
- Commit to spending time with loved ones (invest in your important relationships)
- Know your purpose and your values (live according to them)
- Be self-compassionate (treat yourself like you would a friend)
- Maximize your time (improve efficiency and focus on your priorities)
- Do less (consider simplifying your life)
As you prepare for and work towards your goal of stressing less; focus on progress, not perfection. Please remember that you can improve your daily lifestyle and your health.