Despite the many adverse effects of chronic stress, adults all around the world are burdened by stress on a regular basis. A Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans reported experiencing stressed frequently, if not daily.
According to the American Institute of Stress, some of the most common sources of stress include the future of our nation, money, work, politics, and violent crimes. Nearly 80% of the individuals surveyed also reported feeling physical ailments as a result of their daily stress levels. These symptoms include fatigue, headaches, digestive issues, muscle tension, teeth grinding, a diminished sex drive, as well as dizziness.
Stress isn’t Always Bad
Believe it or not, stress isn’t inherently such a bad thing. In fact, it’s actually vital to our survival. It is a mechanism of our body’s “fight-or-flight” response, which helped our ancestors recognize danger and steer clear of it. To this day, stress serves as the little voice in your head that warns you when something may be a bad idea.
Stress can also challenge you to accomplish your goals. Feeling stressed about your weight could drive you to get in shape, or a deadline closing in may motivate you to finish up your work.
The Effects of Stress
It’s only when stress becomes a chronic that it becomes an issue. According to an article published by Future Science OA chronic stress compromises the immune system and has the potential to cause serious, long-term damage to your organs. The National Institution of Mental Health reports chronic stress increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, as well as diabetes.
If you are frequently feel distressed without any apparent reason, you may also be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults in the United States are affected by anxiety.
Tips to Managing Your Stress
Successfully managing your stress levels is great for your physical health, mental health, and overall well-being.
1. Taking a Deep Breath
When you feel like you are in constant motion fueled by your daily stressors, take a step back and treat yourself to a deep breath. Give yourself time to clear your head. This will allow you to look at your situation objectively and rationalize your approach.
Relax. Brew a cup of tea, get some fresh air, go for a walk, or take a nap. You may even find that things are not necessarily as stressful as you had originally perceived after you’ve taken a moment to cool off.
2. Writing it Out
It’s no secret that keeping a journal is great for your mental health. It’s a healthy way to vent and allows you to accurately reflect upon where you currently stand. The University of Rochester Medical Center reports that a daily journal reduces stress, helps manage anxiety, and is an effective way to cope with symptoms of depression. It allows you to track your symptoms and identify potential triggers.
Your journal doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t even have to use full sentences! Just write everything that’s on your mind as it comes to you. You will instantly feel relieved. Then, take a moment to read over and reflect upon what you wrote.
3. Talking it Out
If you have someone in your life that you trust and feel comfortable venting to, talking it out is another great way to destress. Much like writing it out, it allows you to get everything out of your head and out into the air. It gives you the chance to reflect, but also allows you to gain insight from an outside perspective. Your friend or family member may be able to offer some incredibly helpful advice, or at the very least be your shoulder to cry on.
If stress is causing significant impairments to your daily life, it’s definitely a better idea to seek professional help from your doctor or a licensed therapist. While your friends and family can offer tremendous support, they’re not necessarily qualified to give mental health advice – especially if you are suffering from an underlying anxiety disorder. You should never feel embarrassed about visiting a therapist. After all, taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health.
4. Sleeping on It
The Center for Disease Control and prevention reports that over one third of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep per night, which is at least seven hours. Sleep deprivation negatively affects your weight, heart, and brain. According to John Hopkins Medicine, sleep deprivation impairs your ability to think clearly, increases your irritability, and puts you at a greater risk for experiencing anxiety as well as depression.
Treat yourself to a good night’s sleep and a well-deserved nap. Your brain and body will thank you. If you feel too stressed to sleep, put some relaxing music or a very slow movie on. You’re probably so exhausted from the constant push-and-pull of life, you’ll be out before you even have the chance to count sheep.
5. Meditation and Yoga
Meditation and yoga are the perfect way to destress. Both encourage you to clear your mind and will leave you feeling revitalized. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports meditation can reduce your blood pressure, reduce symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), anxiety, depression, and even insomnia.
According to Harvard, yoga sets the foundation for healthy body image, promotes wellness, weight loss, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Both meditation and yoga can be done from the comfort of your very own home, and it only takes a few minutes of your day. Alternatively, you could join a yoga class. Practicing yoga could evolve into a healthy hobby and a gateway to make new connections. Most importantly, both yoga and meditation promote mindfulness and wellness.
Chronic stress is an epidemic in America, which can evolve into a number of life-threatening conditions. It can affect your weight, cognitive abilities, your blood pressure, and increase the risk of heart disease.
Through self-reflection, venting, meditation, and yoga, you can effectively manage your stress levels in a healthy way. Getting proper rest is also essential to your mental health.