Unfortunately, the current pace at which we are required to work and respond today is a huge trigger of stress. But although stress is typically associated with work, its roots may vary. And although we usually give it a bad connotation, stress can actually be beneficial to us – if under control, of course.
You see, the term “stress” as used today was coined by Hans Selvey, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change” – TO ANY DEMAND FOR CHANGE.
When your mind perceives a threat, your body releases a flood of stress hormones that put your body on high alert to prepare it for fast and emergency actions, needed in so many situations. They make your heart beat faster, they raise your blood pressure, your breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. In emergency situations, stress can save your life, but if you are under stress on a regular basis, it can cause severe damage to your health.
Understanding your body’s reaction to stress
We tried to find a clear and illustrative way to explain what happens to your body when you are under stress, but Sharon Horesh Bergquist’s explanation in this TEDEd video is hard to beat:
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So now that you are aware of how terribly bad leading a stressful life is for your health, we will assume that you are very interested in changing it, and that you would like us to tell you how.
We usually have our own techniques to relax, but more often than not they are just temporary and make more damage than good. These are smoking, drinking, going for junk food, “relaxing” in front of the TV, taking sleeping pills, procrastinating, and so forth.
Most of our temporary techniques to relax make more damage than good. Click To Tweet
Because we all respond to stress differently and its roots may vary, there isn’t one global solution that will work for everybody, but we will give you some general guidance that can contribute enormously in stress reduction:
First of all: be polite to yourself
- Respect your limits and learn to say “no” when you really can’t or don’t want to do something.
- Accept there are things you can’t change. Trying to control things or situations beyond your reach is a free ticket to stress and anxiety. Epictetus said: “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
- Decide what you want and define your priorities accordingly. If, for example, you say that you want to lead a healthier life and reduce your level of stress but you keep working 10 or more hours a day, you know well that you won’t do it.
Make some lifestyle changes
- We will never get tired of recommending physical exercise. 30 minutes a day is the minimum suggested, which can be met by walking your dog, walking or cycling to your job or walking with your child to school instead of using the car, dancing, replacing the elevator by the stairs, or any other activity as part of your life and routine.
- Make time for things you enjoy, for fun and relaxation.
- Make time to meet people you like.
- Go healthier: give up smoking, curb your caffeine intake, cut back on sleeping tablets, alcohol and drugs. They are just temporary solutions that can cause you bigger health problems. Besides, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine are stimulants, so they will produce the opposite effect.
And perhaps one of the most important suggestions: find balance. Remember that “happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony” (Thomas Merton)
Want to reduce stress? Be polite to yourself, make some changes and find balance Click To Tweet