Do you sometimes feel like your life is falling apart at the seams? Many of the problems found in society today can be solved if you just find a way to reduce stress levels.
What is stress?
In the scientific sense, stress is a condition in which your body produces particular chemicals and hormones that cause you to feel agitated, on edge, and possibly angry, worried, and depressed. In the physical world, to place an object under stress can mean putting a great weight on it, pulling it in all directions, or pushing it until it breaks – which is just how it can feel to be under stress.
What causes stress?
Many things can cause stress, but it often boils down to worrying or being upset about something, either consciously or subconsciously. Thinking you won’t have enough money to pay the rent at the end of month can cause stress – you worry about the outcome should you not pay. Moving house can cause stress – there are so many things to keep track of, and you have to make sure you stay on top of everything. Working in a store and being complained at by a customer can cause stress – especially if you feel you did nothing wrong. Marriage – and of course, divorce – can cause stress. How will you cope? What will people think? Where will you live? Will you have enough money?
College exams, acne, pregnancy, impending surgery, planning a get-together during the holidays, any number of things can cause a stress reaction from your body.
The physical effects of not taking action to reduce stress levels
Your body can only handle a certain amount of activity as you will know if you’ve ever had to run to try and catch a bus. General health and fitness affects the amount of activity you can do, but stress severely affects this. Being under stress is like constantly asking your body to perform an extra task, even while sleeping. As such, you can end up with extremely low energy which can lead to other problems like depression. Alternatively, you may suffer physical problems. This is due to the resources usually used to repair and maintain your body being diverted to somewhere else. These problems can include hair loss, weight gain, and hives. Each of these can and will affect your physical appearance, which can build into a spiral as you becomed stressed out about the way you look on top of everything else.
How to reduce stress
Breathing and Meditation
Taking just a few moments to take a deep breath or two can work wonders. Breathing is the essence of life, and without it you can’t exist. Just understanding that you are still alive and breathing can dramatically alter your mindset.
There are various specific breathing techniques you can use, but just taking a deep breath and holding it for a couple of seconds will help to calm your mind.
Breathing techniques can also form a part of mindfulness and meditation. Meditation is not a spiritual practice – it is simply taking the time to examine your mind and help yourself relax. You can find videos on Youtube demonstrating various breathing techniques and offering guided meditations. Apps such as Headspace and Calm are available to help too.
Music can connect with you on a very deep level. Certain songs will remind you of times in your life, good and bad. Music also has the power to change your mood, to excite or calm you. The choice of music is entirely personal, and you may find you feel better with a few upbeat tunes – but you might also prefer a quick chill-out session!
Exercise & Healthy living
Healthy living can help you to reduce stress naturally, without the aid of drugs or anything else. Whilst being stressed can cause you to gain weight, conversely being overweight can cause your body to become stressed, so maintaining a good diet is essential.
Exercise that gets your muscles working and the blood pumping is good for you on many levels. The obvious benefit is that your body will become stronger and healthier. Less obviously, exercise causes your body to release endorphins. Endorphins reduce the feelings of pain, and generally make you feel good. Feeling good helps reduce stress, so get exercising!
A massage, whether it is full body, head, shoulders, or back, helps your muscles to relax. Tense muscles are often a symptom of stress, and changing your physiology by relaxing your muscles can help to relieve stress.
Hypnosis can be performed in an office by a professional hypnotherapist, or products are commercially available (such as those by Paul McKenna). These products can help train your mind to deal with and reduce stress. It is simply a matter of training your brain to deal with certain situations in a particular way. If the cause of your stress is irrational, why bow down to an irrational fear?
Not taking random naps every now and then, but ensuring that your sleep patterns are full and uninterrupted. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will be stressed. But if you get way too much sleep, you’ll also be stressed! The usual required amount is between 6 and 8 hours, but you will have to find the sweet spot for yourself. Anything less than 6 hours is far too little.
Attacking the day, week, month, or year without a plan is a recipe for stress. If you don’t have a framework for your day at the very least, it’s easy to start wondering what to do next. And it’s just a short step from there to full-on stress. Plan what you want to get done the night before, and don’t try and get through the day without knowing what your goal is.
There is no Easy Life
No matter what you do, there will be some stress in your life. Unexpected visitors, being stuck in traffic, money not arriving in you bank account, even running out of milk. But while there is no easy life, you do have the option of dealing with life on your terms.
Don’t get stressed by unexpected visitors – welcome them in, spend time catching up, enjoy their company.
There’s no need to get stressed by being stuck in traffic – use the extra time to plan the rest of your day, or just appreciate the calm in the car.
Don’t get stressed by the money not arriving on time – make a phone call to the bank or whoever was meant to be paying you. There’s probably a legitimate reason why it’s late, and it can probably be fixed easily.
And never get stressed because you ran out of milk – drink your coffee black. Or use cream. Or…put it in perspective. Did you get a bad report from the doctor, or did you run out of milk? One of these things might cause you stress and worry, but the other affects you making a drink. And the store down the street probably has milk to.
Keep everything in perspective, and you should find it helps to reduce stress in all areas of your life.