“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose.”
– Maureen Killoran
We live in a world of uncertainty and there’s no escaping this fact. Trying to balance the excess stress in our lives at times might seem like an impossible task, but it is achievable. We all suffer from excess stress at some stage in our lives. And I say suffer, because the symptoms of excess stress can provoke very unpleasant feelings and emotions.
Most of us have lain awake at night tossing and turning unable to sleep because of unresolved issues that torment our minds. We all do and say things in the heat of the moment that we later regret. We get caught up in situations sometimes that are beyond our control and leave us feeling vulnerable and angry. If we can learn how to handle the excess stress in our lives more effectively it will make us calmer, healthier and happier individuals.
One of the best ways to keep yourself healthy and happy is to manage stress effectively. Stress can have a hugely detrimental impact on a person’s health and happiness. So, you can either ignore it at your peril or learn to cope with it and put yourself in a happier and healthier place.
DO I NEED STRESS MANAGEMENT?
Stress can cause a variety of distressing symptoms, ranging from the physical to the emotional. Here are just a few of the symptoms caused by stress. If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, it is time to try a stress management program.
• Brain function: Difficulties with memory, concentration or judgment can be a sign that your stress levels are too high.
• Outlook: A stressed person can often be constantly pessimistic, anxious or worried.
• Emotional: The emotional symptoms of stress include: Moodiness or irritability, feeling overwhelmed, feeling lonely or isolated, and of course depression.
• Physical symptoms: There are a huge range of physical symptoms associated with stress, and they can differ for each person. Some of the more common are unexplained aches and pains, migraine, diarrhea or constipation, indigestion, palpitations, chest pain, frequent colds, and irregular periods.
• Sexual disorders: These can include reduced libido, impotence, infertility, failure to reach orgasm, and premature ejaculation.
• Behavioral symptoms: If there has been a sudden change to your eating or sleeping patterns, or you are procrastinating or engaging in a nervous habit like nail biting or teeth grinding, you may well be suffering with high levels of stress. Increased cigarette smoking, alcohol intake, and caffeine consumption are also indicators that should not be ignored.
These are just a few of the symptoms associated with stress. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you are suffering with one or more of these symptoms, it is probably time to start a stress management program. Getting an exact diagnosis for stress is difficult, as every person is different when it comes to handling stress.
If you are suffering from stress, there are a wide array of techniques you can try to reduce your stress levels. The first and most obvious is to stop worrying about things you cannot change. Many people suffer from anxiety about the world around them, natural disasters, economic woes and bad news reports, all of which can increase stress levels dramatically. However, you cannot control these things, so there is no point worrying about them. If the news is stressing you out, as it does for many people, then disengaging for a little while might allow you to relax.
Television, radio and even computers can and does cause stress in our lives. When you think about it for a moment, nearly everything we hear and see on the media is disturbing and stressful. Rarely do we hear good news. It’s usually about how other people are suffering in the world and this only makes us feel helpless. This in turn causes our stress levels to rise putting our own health at risk.
There are things we can do to make a difference in other people’s lives, but we can’t change the entire world when things such as natural disasters occur. We can only help in monetary terms and some people are gifted with a generosity of heart where they are willing to put their own lives on the line to help others in times of dire stress and need when a natural disaster occurs. We can only do what we are capable of doing.
There are a huge variety of stress management techniques you can try. Here are just a few of them.
• Exercise: Daily exercise is one of the best things you can do to reduce your stress levels and improve your general health, which in turn will lessen your stress levels even further. No matter what condition you are currently in at the moment; do 30 minutes of exercise every day in order to manage your stress. Even if it’s just a slow stroll around the block, getting out into the fresh air and working up a sweat will benefit you greatly.
• Autogenic Training: Training yourself to take 15 minutes three times a day and visualize or focus on something relaxing is also beneficial. This method has been around since the 1930s and is seen as a form of meditation. It allows your brain to switch off from your troubles three times a day. This system takes practice though, and Buddhist monks spend their entire lives trying to quiet the brain. It will probably not happen overnight, but with patience and persistence this is a great way to reduce your stress level.
• Get a hobby: Whether it is model train building or gardening, a hobby is a great way to take your mind off your troubles. Focus your energy entirely on what you are doing so the outside world just drifts away and your stress levels decrease immediately. If you can find a local club or society of people who also engage in that hobby, that’s all the better, as social interaction is another important part of tackling stress, depression and all types of psychological ailments.
• Breathing: I know you breathe all the time, but if you find your stress levels spiking, stop for a minute and breathe deeply, focusing on your diaphragm, abdomen or stomach as you breathe in and out. If you focus completely on your breathing, you will find your body calming as your oxygen levels increase. Your mind will calm down as you focus on the in-out of your breath.
• Time management: Ever felt like there are not enough hours in the day? Don’t worry, you are not alone. Effectively managing your time will allow you to feel less stressed. It will also help you to avoid procrastination, one of the main symptoms of stress. A well managed day is a stress free day, and the sense of accomplishment you get when you cross off a full day’s worth of chores will allow you a free and easy sleep that night. Give it a try and see what happens!
• Stress Balls: Okay, let’s keep it clean here people! A stress ball is a little rubber ball that you squeeze. Sounds simple right? Well, it is, but it also works for taking your stress out on that little rubber ball. It can be extremely satisfying. In many cases, it is a replacement for more damaging coping mechanisms like nail biting or teeth grinding, but it is a nice cheap way to get you through those stressful times during the day.
• Music: Listening to music is a time honored way of reducing stress. Be sure to experiment with a few different types, but note that classical music is often recommended, as stress management music without lyrics is usually best.
• Yoga: Yoga incorporates exercise, deep breathing and meditation, and is one of the most highly recommended ways to manage your stress. There are Yoga classes available all across the world, and there is bound to be one near you. There are numerous books and DVDs also widely available.
• Prayer: For the religious among us, nothing beats a good prayer. Having a chat with your God, no matter who he or she may be, allows you to pour out your problems and get things off your chest. Some scientific studies have evaluated the therapeutic effects of prayer. Whatever might work for a person, doesn’t give another the right to dispute it. If it works for you, go for it!
No matter what method you choose, remember that you are not alone. Everybody gets stressed at some time in their lives and learning how to manage that stress will allow you to live a healthier and happier life.