Taking time to conquer stress
Stress happens. Sometimes it's unavoidable, at times it's unbearable. That's why taking time for yourself is a necessity.
National Stress Awareness Month is a good chance to take a deep breath and relax. Stress does not merely afflict your mind; it can also affect you on a cellular level. In fact, long-term stress can lead to a wide range of illnesses – from headaches to stomach disorders to depression – and can even increase the risk of serious conditions like stroke and heart disease.
The sympathetic stress response is a survival mechanism that's "hard wired" into our nervous systems. This automatic response is necessary for mobilizing quick reflexes when there is imminent danger, such as swerving to avoid a car crash. When you perceive a threat, stress hormones rush into your bloodstream -- increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels. Other hormones also suppress functions like digestion and the immune system, which is one of the reasons why chronic stress can leave you more vulnerable to illness. Danger triggers the stress response – but, unfortunately, so can work conflicts, worry over debt, bad memories, or anxiety. Although one bad day at work won't compromise your health, weeks or months of stress can dampen your immune response and raise your risk for disease.
If you suffer from chronic stress and can't influence or change the situation, then you’ll need to change your approach. Be willing to be flexible. Remember, you have the ability to choose your response to stressors, and you may have to try various options. So here is a list of positive ways to respond to the stress in your life and keep your own stress levels in check.
1. Make Up Your Mind to Get and/or Stay Healthy. Taking control of your personal health can make a great difference in the amount of stress you feel. The best way to reclaim control of your life is by taking charge of your body. Whether it is through diet, exercise, or simply getting that checkup you've been putting off, let April be the month you put yourself back in control.
2. Make a Change. It can be as simple as clearing the clutter off your desk or as elaborate as taking a well-deserved vacation, the important thing is that you do something different. Even a small change can make a big difference when it comes to stress.
3. Focus on Now. Most folks live their entire lives in yesterday or tomorrow. In truth, however, there is only Now. Focusing on this perfect moment, right now, provides a magical escape from the disappointment of what once was and the fear of what might be, and leaves stress stuck in a time warp.
4. Talk to Yourself. Sometimes a good pep talk is all that is needed to keep stress at bay. Maybe it is high time you gave yourself one by affirming what is right with your life instead of dwelling on what’s wrong.
5. Get the Giggles. It’s true; laughter really is the best medicine. Watch a funny show or video, or tell a funny joke. Whatever it takes, give yourself time for laughter each and every day.
6. Meditate. A still mind is a stress-free mind, so take a deep breath, quiet your thoughts and let the stress melt away. Even ten minutes of meditation done daily for the next 30 days will do wonders for releasing stress in your life.
7. Keep a Happiness Journal. Every evening for the next 30 days spend a few minutes reflecting on the day you just experienced and list five things about the day that delighted you.
8. Put a Positive Spin on It. No matter what challenge you may be facing, do your best to think about it positively and then let that new positive mindset become your focal point.
9. Help Someone Else. Sometimes the best way to deal with stress is by providing relief to someone else. Putting your focus on others takes the focus off your own challenges, leading to less rumination and stress. So look around you, see who needs a hand, and then offer yours.
While you can't avoid stress, you can minimize it by changing how you choose to respond to it. The ultimate reward for your efforts is a healthy, balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Stephanie Duguid is Dean of Academic Instruction at Co-Lin. She is also an athletic trainer and nutrition specialist and has been teaching courses related to those two areas as well as practicing what she preaches for more than twenty years.