All the facts on stress point to the conclusion that it has become a problem of epidemic proportions in today’s fast paced society.
More people than ever are living with chronic stress caused by job worries, unemployment, commuting, family stress, and health problems. We add to that stress with our own negative thinking and self-talk. (That is why I am constantly urging people to learn mind power techniques.)
According to Harvard Health, in a study done by the American Psychological Association in 2011, 25% of people contacted reported their stress levels to be high. Another 50% of the people in the study reported their stress levels to be moderate. That means that in 2011, 75% percent of the people studied were experiencing moderate to high stress levels. And over the years that number has only increased.
The good news in the Harvard report was that when people learned to respond to stress with mind power techniques such as meditation, progressive relaxation and visualization, more than 50% were able to stop their hypertension medication entirely. That is fabulous!
The bad facts on stress is that it has a dramatic impact on the body. The mind and body are connected, so when you experience chronic stress, your body will continually try to compensate. Your adrenal glands will pump out adrenaline, which will put you in a hyper-aware state.
That hyper-awareness was great for prehistoric men and women who needed it to figure out how to fight or flee from predators. But it is not good for you. it depletes your immune system and makes you susceptible to all sorts of health problems.
In today’s world it causes a lot more problems than it solves. Constant production of adrenaline causes physical pain and overwhelming fatigue. It can also cause your kidneys and adrenal glands to malfunction.
It’s not just the adrenal glands that are affected by stress. Stress makes your heart pump faster and harder, which increases the chances of a heart attack. Blood pressure rises in response to stress.
Lack of sleep due to adrenaline can lead to poor brain function and also puts more stress on the body. Chronic pain in the joints and soft tissue can also be caused by stress. More on physical symptoms of stress here.
Stress management is critically important to staying physically and mentally healthy.
If you are not too concerned about your health, perhaps the ugly facts on stress will get your attention. Hair loss, belly fat and gum disease can be caused or made worse by stress.
Add to that the fact that too much stress can cause havoc on personal relationships because people who are chronically stressed become irritable, erratic, and quick to anger.
It’s also a fact that people who are stressed out make poor decisions. Because their concentration is off, they are often dangerous drivers and seldom fun to be around.
There are some easy things that you can do to manage stress and avoid the problems that come with chronic stress. Simple lifestyle changes, even easy strategies like using affirmations for stress, can dramatically reduce the impact of stress on your life. Some great ways to manage stress are:
Limit caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant, which is something that people who are already stressed out don’t need. Taking a stimulant on top of the adrenaline that is already flowing in the body can cause serious physical damage. Instead of drinking coffee in the morning switch to tea. Some teas have caffeine in lower amounts than coffee, and herbal teas have no caffeine.
Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee in the afternoon when you are exhausted and need a lift, try taking a 10 minute power nap or eating a piece of citrus fruit. Citrus fruit is rich in antioxidants that will give you a natural energy boost.
Meditate: Meditation Is one of the best ways to manage stress. Deep breathing will help you relax physically. And meditation can help relax and focus your mind.
You may think that you’re "too busy" to make time to meditate, but you don’t have to invest an extended period of time to get the benefits. Even five minutes of deep breathing in the shower each morning will help you manage stress.
If you get stressed out at work shut your office door and spend five or ten minutes focusing on your breathing and meditating on a relaxing scene. You will be amazed at how much more relaxed you feel.
Exercise: Exercise is a great way to deal with the physical impact of stress. Aerobic exercise will help your body regulate the release of stress hormones. It will also help you eliminate the negative effects of stress on the body. After 20 minutes of vigorous exercise your body will release endorphins that will help you relax.
You don’t need to make time to hit the gym or go to an exercise class either. If you are busy you can go for a walk on your lunch break or go out in the yard and play with your kids after work. Put on some music and dance around the house or put on a workout DVD. Find something physical that you enjoy doing and do it for at least 20 minutes a day.
(If you need more motivation , try these mind power techniques for exercise motivation.)