How stress can affect your health, and some ways to control it.
What is stress?
Is it the feeling of fear that comes from facing a tough day at work? Is it the knot in your stomach from dealing with a problem family member? Is it just the pressures that everyday life puts on us all?
The answer to all these questions is "yes." Everybody feels stress in different ways. And there is no single definition that everyone can agree on. Stress can be caused by "bad" things like a sick family member or car problems. But it can also be caused by "good" things, like the arrival of a new baby. This should be a very happy time for a family. But caring for a baby can also be the source of worry and stress. Another example: the holidays. Christmas can be a very happy time of year. But buying gifts, decorating, and dealing with relatives can raise stress levels to new heights.
Things that stress some people out can make other people happy. Ehealthmd.com has some great examples.
- Some people like public speaking, others are scared.
- Some people work better under pressure, others fall apart.
- Some people like helping family members in hard times, others find it very stressful.
The truth is that stress is not just one thing. It's many things to many people. But science has shown that when stress is not controlled, it can lead to real problems. On their website, The American Institute of Stress lists 50 things that stress can cause. Here are just a few:
- dry mouth, problems swallowing
- weight gain
- trouble sleeping, nightmares
- panic attacks
- more use of drugs, alcohol or cigarettes
- chest pain
- feeling like you are worthless
As you can see, when stress isn't controlled, it can cause many problems. And these can lead to even more problems. In many cases, stress about one thing can lead to even more stress and worry about other things. If a person's home life is stressful, they could begin to have problems at work. They could be late and not do a good job. That could then lead to more stress and even sickness.
Controlling stress is the key.
In today's world, there really is no way to not have some stress. Most people have to work to make money. And even people with money face stress. There are likely very few people who don't have some sort of stress.
So what can you do? The best answer is simple: control it. Learn to lower stress in your life. Recognize stress and soften its blow. There are many tested ways to lower stress. Not all of these work for every person. So find the ones that work for you and stick with them.
Here, we give you just a few stress-relieving ideas. We hope you find them useful. We also hope that you come up with your own ideas on how to live with less stress.
Managing stress at home.
One of the best ways to begin lowering your stress levels is to find out what's causing it. Recognizing that an extra-busy week, a new baby or a home repair is causing you to worry is the first step in dealing with your stress. Once you know what's causing it, you can reduce the amount of stress it causes.
WebMD.com offers these tips to help you control stress in your daily life
- Learn better ways to use your time. You may get more done with less stress if you make a schedule, planning out your days and weekends in advance.
- Find better ways to deal with stress. Be honest about what works and what does not. Think about other things that might work better.
- Take good care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Eat well. Don't smoke. If you drink alcohol, try to drink less.
- Work on letting go of things you cannot change.
- Talk it out. Speak up about things that are bugging you. Talk to a friend or family member, or even a counselor.
So now that you know some ways to control stress, how can you relieve the stress you already have? Again, WebMD has some great tips:
- Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Walking is a great way to get started.
- Write. It can help to write about things that are bothering you.
- Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and show anger when you need to with someone you trust.
- Do something you like. A hobby can help you relax. Work that helps others can be a great way to lower stress.
- Learn ways to relax your body and mind. This can include breathing exercises, massage, aromatherapy, yoga, or relaxing exercises like tai chi. Focus on the present, not what tomorrow will bring. Listen to relaxing music.
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Managing stress at work.
Let's face it. Work can be one of the biggest causes of stress. Whether it's a problem boss, a tough task, or simply the pressure of making a living, job stress is shared by almost everyone who works.
But just like at home, there are many ways to help you handle on-the-job stress. Some will work better for you than others. The best idea is to try several and stick with the ones that work best for you.
Seven simple tips for reducing stress at work
- Get away from it all. Take a walk around the block. Stop thinking about whatever is bothering you for a little while. Sometimes, when you give a problem some distance, it seems smaller.
- Confront the problem. Often, the longer you avoid dealing with something stressful, the more you worry and the worse things get. So don't put off handling a difficult task or job. If you need to, talk with a co-worker or your boss to get help.
- Leave work at work. If you can, try to stop thinking about work when you go home. Save your nights for fun, rest and relaxation. Thinking about work all of the time does not allow your mind to rest.
- Don't skip lunch. Some people will sometimes keep on working right through lunch. This can not only be unhealthy, it can also reduce your ability to do your best work, which can lead to additional stress and worry. If you can, don't eat at your desk or station. Eat out sometimes. Other times, bring your lunch. But try eating it in the park or at least in a break room or conference room.
- Say "no," at least sometimes. The Mayo Clinic points out that by saying no once in a while, you can do a better job on work you already have. Saying no also can keep you from getting overwhelmed and frustrated.
- Exercise and stretch. Forbes.com recommends standing in a doorway and holding your right arm straight out in front of you, against the frame. Take a step and turn your body to the left. This reduces muscle tension in your upper back, allowing you to better hold yourself upright. You can also simple take a moment to sit up straight and do simple stretches right in your chair. This can make your body feel better, relieve tension, and let you move on with less stress.
- Have fun. Work can be very serious. It seems like there are always problems to be handled. But that does not mean that you can't try to have a good time at work and let off some steam. Look for the humor in everyday situations. Make a joke in a meeting to lighten the mood. Smile as much as you can. Having fun at work does not mean that you're not doing a good job. It simply allows you to do your work with less stress.
Life can be hard. Work can make you worry. And stress is unfortunately a part of life many days. But it doesn't have to be a big part. So try some of the tips listed above. Or come up with your own ways to relieve stress in your life. Whatever you do, remember one thing. When you learn to control stress, it can't control you.
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