Stress is a normal part of life for everyone. But too much stress can have serious consequences for your health. Some stress is good and can trigger your fight-or-flight mechanism to help you handle emergencies. Everyone responds to stress differently so it’s important to know what stresses you out and how to handle it. Stress is an unavoidable reality of life. But stress isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a natural, physical response that can trigger our fight-or-flight response. Stress can increase our awareness in difficult or dangerous situations, allowing us to act quickly in the moment. Without it, humans wouldn’t have survived this long!
But if stress is constant over time, it can be detrimental to your health. Preventing stress is important!
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s response to any demand. Many things can trigger stress and can be positive or negative. In a dangerous situation, stress will trigger your fight-or-flight response and cause the following symptoms:
• increased heart rate
• faster breathing
• tensed muscles
Your body is only meant to handle stress in small bursts. Chronic stress can lead to serious problems, lowering your immune system and interfering with the proper functioning of your body’s systems. A lowered immune system means you are more prone to colds and infections. Over time, constant strain can also lead to:
• heart disease
• high blood pressure
What can you do?
1) Identify your stressors!
o Everyone responds to stress differently and identifying what stresses you out can be easier said than done. In most cases, it’s fairly obvious: a bad relationship, a poor work environment, or health concerns, for example. In other cases, finding the root of your stress and anxiety may be more challenging.
o Learn to know how you react to stress and what specifically stresses you out. Keep a daily journal and record when something causes you undue stress or anxiety. Then try to answer these questions when stress arises: o Is it a particular person or place that causes the stress?
o When do I feel the most “on edge” during the day?
o Do I make bad decisions as a result of feeling stressed or overwhelmed?
When you start to see patterns, you’ll be able to recognize what triggers stress for you, and you’ll be better equipped to handle it.
2) Change stressors when you can:
a. Some stress is unavoidable and the best you can do is to manage it. Some things are within your control. For example, if you know that grocery shopping on Sunday evening stresses you out because the lines are always long and everyone’s picked through the best produce before you get there, change your schedule and shop on another night.
b. Changing simple things in your life can add up and greatly reduce your overall stress.
3) Set limits:
a. Sometimes you may bite off more than you can chew and before you know it, you’re overwhelmed. It can be hard to juggle the many activities and people in your life. Learning how to say “no” is important so you don’t stretch yourself too thin.
b. It might be hard to turn someone down or not participate in a certain event, but saving your energy and having time for yourself is important. You’ll be more rested and less irritable. And you’ll be able to enjoy other people and activities more.
c. Be realistic and know your limits and be firm with them. You’ll be healthier and happier for it.
4) Try not to get overwhelmed
a. So much to do.. But where do you start?
b. First, make a list. This helps you see what’s on your plate so you can prioritize what needs attention now and what can wait. Number the items in order of importance and complete them one at a time. Stress prevention and stress management are important, and will help you juggle the many things going on in your life.
Remember, the goal isn’t to completely get rid of stress, but to eliminate unnecessary stress and help you cope with unavoidable stress!