Stress is a full body response that is deeply rooted in our history. When humans first evolved, we had a lot of things to worry about- usually, these were things that would kill or eat us. As such, the body had to develop an intricate defense system, known as the sympathetic, or “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic response affects almost every organ and is designed to allow humans to evade predators.
While today’s society has very different risks and problems from the ancient world, our body responds in the same way when strained. Unfortunately, this, once helpful response, is now likely to do more harm than good which is why everyone involved in health care, from doctors to gurus, recommend keeping stress levels as low as possible- or at least at a manageable level. Now, this is easier said than done with our busy schedules and constantly ringing cell phones, but it is worth the effort to try in order to avoid serious healthcare problems in the future. Here are just a few tips for decreasing stress:
- Know When to Ask for Help: In our individualistic, independent society, it is tempting to try and get everything done on your own. However, humans are not meant to be alone and we are not meant to do everything by ourselves either. Not being able to survive on our own is why we created societies in the first place, so it only makes sense that we rely on others when we need help. If you are stressed or overwhelmed, reach out to an available and appropriate source or person. For instance, if you are having emotional troubles, or are dealing with grief, you can reach out to a close confidant or professional counselor. If you are dealing with the stress of a messy home, consider looking for a maid service. With a bit of research, you can find a service that will work on your schedule. To avoid location problems, consider starting the search in your city. For instance, search for “house cleaning Atlanta” if you live in Atlanta. Once you can identify your needs and seek reliable assistance, your life will be much more manageable.
- Check Your Mindset: Our lives are based in part on the events around us, and in a large part on how we perceive these events. For instance, some people approach a mountain of last minute work as a fun challenge, while others become nervous and anxious. Checking your mindset is hard work, but it is possible with a bit of practice. One key tenet is knowing that everything, no matter how stressful it feels, will pass over time and that good things can happen even in the middle of the bad. Next time you are in a stressful situation, consider actively trying to look for the positives instead of focusing on the stress itself.
- Build Your Support System: Having friends, family or even pets in your life is an important way to deal with stress. If you are a pet parent, you understand the joy of coming home to your animal who is generally just happy to see you. A good support system can help you through a hard time emotionally or even financially. The type of system you choose depends on your personality. Some people go to a religious organization, while others have a group of friends or close family members. Your support system is there for both the good and the bad which means that you’ll have the added benefits of sharing your joys with others as well, as the chance to be there for them when you are needed.
- Take Time Off: This is crucial for stress management. “Time off” is anything that is relaxing and worry-free. Some people enjoy camping while others prefer to curl up at home with a good book or head to the beach. Whatever you prefer as your “down time” make sure that you are taking time off from emails, texts and other errands. If you can, turn off your phone and leave it in the car so that you are not tempted to reply to a work email or pay a bill. This one tends to be difficult at first, but if you let people know that you will be unavailable and do a bit extra before and after, you should have nothing to worry about.
- Dance Around: Research has proven that dance has a number of great benefits including reducing stress, increasing heart health and improving memory. If you don’t already dance, you can take a class at your local community center or your gym. Feel free to experiment with different styles to find something that you really like. If you feel very uncomfortable dancing, consider other forms of callisthenic exercise such as martial arts or yoga.
- Do Not Neglect Your Hobbies: Our hobbies are the things that we truly enjoy doing. No one forces us to pursue a hobby, which is perhaps why hobbies often get pushed aside when life becomes hectic. In many cases, however, we need that outlet to help us relieve stress, be social and maintain good mental health. Even if life becomes busy, you should set time aside to pursue things that you love. If you do not have a hobby, you can try experimenting. You may not find your passion in the first thing you try, but you may gain some friends and more insight into yourself.
- Plan: Even the thought of planning and lists can be stress inducing for some people while, for others, a checklist can be joy. When you are planning, make sure that you are doing so in a manner that works for your individual personality. If lists are not your thing, consider a Google calendar. Having a good way to organize your life will reduce the stress of the expected things piling up. You should also have a contingency plan for the “unexpected”. A good contingency plan involves being able to shuffle things around in terms of time and money to deal with a given problem. Another important plan to have is one for managing high stress. If you feel your stress levels rising, try to find a good coping mechanism.
Coping with stress is not a singular process. In many cases, it takes planning, action, and discipline. But doing the work will also produce multi variable benefits that will apply not just for stress management, but also for a better overall life.