The title of this week’s piece may throw you off a bit as you may be thinking to yourself, “You can’t possibly avoid stress!” For the most part, you aren’t that wrong. Stress is, essentially, an inevitable part of life. It affects all aspects of our life to some degree. But before I explain how you can go about avoiding it, it’s important to understand what exactly stress is.
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any demand or threat. When you are faced with a threat, your nervous system releases a flood of hormones, calling for the body to respond. As a response to stress, your heart beats faster, your strength and stamina increase, your speed enhances, and you become more focused. The response triggered by stress is known as “fight or flight,” and it is used as the body’s way of self-protection.
Being stressed out every now and then isn’t too detrimental for health, but living with chronic stress can take a nasty toll on the body. Signs of chronic stress can be categorized into four groups: cognitive symptoms, emotional symptoms, physical symptoms, and behavioral symptoms. Examples of chronic stress symptoms include memory problems, anxiety, aches and pains, changes in eating habits, constant worrying, the use of substances like alcohol or cigarettes, and loss of sex drive, to name a few.
Many studies have revealed the dangers of chronic stress, including increasing the risk of cardiovascular events. Therefore, it’s important to manage your stress, but if you can avoid it, that is even better.
So going back to the start for a moment, yes, it may sound challenging or even impossible to avoid stress altogether – let’s be honest, no one lives a perfect life – but you can take control of the stress you allow in your life and how it affects you. Here are some tips to help you avoid or even prevent stress from growing into a much larger problem.
Take a look at your lifestyle: How well are you balancing the different aspects of your life such as family and work? If you don’t have a good balance, you may be feeling more stressed out. Look at how you spend your time and see if there is anything you can remove for greater equilibrium.
Another lifestyle adjustment is creating a purpose for yourself. By finding meaning in everyday life you can feel more connected. It’s also important that you get adequate sleep. Sleep is the time when your body restores itself, so if you’re not sleeping well you may find yourself more stressed or easily set off when a stressful situation arises. If you are well rested, you are more equipped to take on a challenge.
Lastly, another tactic that can help you combat stress is exercising regularly. Not only is this a stress-buster, but it can keep you calm and cool in the long run, too.
Avoid the stressor: If a situation requires attention, then it is important that you address it, but if you can avoid it, do so for the sake of your peace of mind. This could involve cutting out people that only cause you stress from your life. Although ending a friendship or severing ties may be difficult, if that person isn’t bringing positivity into your existence then you are probably better off without them.
It’s also important to learn how to say no. Many of us find this challenging as we always want to please those around us. Unfortunately, when we do, we find that we are the ones stressed out and hurt. Knowing when to say no and being okay with that decision can further help eliminate stress.
Lastly, control your environment. What does this mean exactly? Well, let’s say the six o’clock news gives you anxiety – opt not to watch it. If your route to and from work is slammed with traffic, try to find a different route. Attempting to alter your environment to make it more enjoyable will greatly help reduce the stress in your life.
You must also have the willingness to compromise just as much as the other person is. Compromise should be as close to 50/50 as possible, so that both parties are comfortable with the outcome.
Lastly, for many of us time is a huge stressor. If you’re always running late or overbooking yourself, work on managing your time more efficiently by either leaving your house earlier or learning to say no and not taking on extra commitments.
Accept what you cannot change: If you continue to try and change the situation or problem and find the result to be the same, not only are you wasting your time but you’re causing yourself more stress. It’s okay if something cannot change, and if you accept that, you can move on quicker and go back to being stress-free.
Don’t try to control the uncontrollable, especially if it’s the behavior of others. You’ll find you’re more stressed because of other people’s actions and that’s not really worth it, is it? Also, try to look at the upside of the situation, especially if it can provide you with an opportunity for personal growth. Even if you made a poor decision, stressing over it won’t change it. Instead, learning from it can make you a better person in the long run.
Lastly, learn to forgive. Although that is easier said than done, forgiveness can really set you free. Accepting the fact that we are all imperfect can take a real load off. Just because you didn’t agree with what someone else has done, if the relationship means enough, you can forgive that action, take in the necessary lessons from it, and move on.
I truly believe in negative and positive energy. Harboring anger and resentment will hurt you more than the person you are angry at. If you can’t forgive, then let go.
These are just some pointers on how you can approach your stress management. In many ways, stress is controllable, so take what you can control and don’t allow it to cause you long-term pain.
Until next week,