Living Life with Minimal Stress

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Stress is simply the body’s non-specific response to any demand made on it. Stress is not by definition synonymous with nervous tension or anxiety. So how do you live life with less stress?

Learn more in What is Stress?

It is important to remember that stress, in certain forms are normal and essential. Whatever the stressor is, it requires the body to make physical and chemical adjustments in order to maintain the necessary physiological balance for survival. These adaptations have also been called the “fight or flight response.”  These are usually seen as a rise in blood pressure, quicker breathing and heart beat, and dilated pupils. After the threat has passed or a change has taken place, the “alarm” signs disappear. The body is still aroused but is adapting to the change. However, if high levels of stress continue, the energy to adapt runs out. Exhaustion occurs, causing damage to the person’s physical and emotional well-being.

Our lives are filled with many demands that continue over a long period of time. Demands such as work overload may result in negative stress, which is called distress. Unrelieved stress can take an emotional as well as a physical toll, in the form of anxiety or depression, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, ulcers, allergies, asthma, or migraine headaches. If unattended, stress can seriously damage physical health, psychological well-being, and relationships with friends, family and coworkers.

How do you know you are stressed?

Not all symptoms of excessive stress can be observed easily. Some people that are stressed use some of the comments below to express their increased state of stress:

  • “I can’t keep my mind on my work.”
  • “I can’t relax.”
  • “I feel all tied up in knots.”
  • “I feel miserable, and I don’t know why.”

Other possibilities of recognizing that you are stressed are the following:

  • A door slammed a little too hard
  • Lots of fault finding and bickering
  • An overpowering sense of fatigue
  • A constant state of turmoil

If you are still wondering if you suffer from increased stress, some early warning signs include:

  • Changes in sleep pattern or constant insomnia
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Indigestion
  • Marked change in appetite or sex drive
  • Headaches
  • Exaggerated, out of proportion anxiety
  • Lack of enjoyment of life
  • Excessive moodiness
  • Pain in neck and/or lower back
  • Fatigue
  • Poor emotional control
  • General irritability
  • Withdrawal from responsibility
  • Increased accident proneness
  • Susceptibility to illness
  • Severe feelings of helplessness and dependency
  • Trembling

Stress management strategies

1. Time Management

It is important for you to prioritize the important things in life. Use a daily planner, keep track of what you have to do and what your are doing. Ensure you set aside time for yourself. Determine the most productive time of the day and schedule the tasks you least like to do or your hardest assignments for that time. Keep organized, this will save time on looking for things.

2. Lifestyle Changes

Exercise: Start some form of exercise that you enjoy, preferably something that brings you into contact with other people. Ensure that it is done three times a week for 20 minutes to two hours. Over a period of time, cardiovascular exercise will benefit the heart, lungs, and arteries and result in biochemical changes that elevate your mood and encourage a healthy self-concept. The best cardiovascular fitness program involves daily aerobic or rhythmic, repetitive exercise three times a week, e.g., running, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, rowing, aerobic dancing, and cross country skiing.

Diet: Be moderate in everything you do and consume. This includes coffee, tea, soft drinks, and drugs containing caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and may promote even more nervousness and tension. Eat an adequate and nutritious breakfast each day, at least one fourth of your daily calories and nutrients at breakfast. Eat healthy snacks, take along some fruits and vegetables, nuts, or yogurt, and do not suffer the consequences of missed meals and fat-laden fast food binges. Hunger can increase irritability and hence leave you less able to cope with stress.

Sleep: Make sleep a priority, get at least seven (7) hours of sleep each night. You may have to sacrifice social events or household chores, but don’t skimp on sleep, this time is very important for rejuvenating your mental and physical energies.

Meditation: Practice some form of relaxation or meditation. Remember any form of continuous activity is considered meditation. Therefore, riding a bike, walking, running, swimming, prayer, humming a word on a continuous bases are all forms of meditation.

3. Mindset

Take control: Try not to let one thing dominate your actions or thoughts. Do not lay blame on yourself if something does not go the way you indented. Remember everything should be looked at as a lesson. Look at life as full of challenges, not burdens.

Positivity: Associate with positive people whom you enjoy being with and support you.

Set aside time for yourself everyday — THIS IS A MUST.

4. Communication

Ensure that you are calm when discussing problems. Define your needs and make certain others are aware of how you feel. Listen to another’s point of view and feelings. Work with the person you are in discussion with to formulate a solution. Do not criticize their ideas. Once a solution has been agreed upon, re-evaluate the tried solution to ensure that it has fulfilled everyone’s needs.

Respect yourself and others: Respect yourself and others by protecting your personal freedoms and space. Do what you want and feel, but respect the rights of others. Don’t tell others what to do, but if they impose let them know.

Have an outlet: When something begins to bother you have someone that you can talk to, and will listen.

5. Be Realistic

Set reasonable and achievable goals.

Some relaxation techniques

  1. Most of us have learned to breathe from our chests. Yet, belly breathing is the natural way, and a good stress-reducing habit. Sit or lie comfortably in a relaxed position. As you slowly breathe in, let your belly expand. Think of it as a balloon you are filling with air. As you exhale, let the air out of your “balloon” slowly. Place your hands on your stomach. You should feel it rise and lower as you breathe.
  2. In a relaxed position, breathe through your nose, easily and naturally, eyes closed. As you breathe out think “one.” As you breathe in, think “one.” Continue for 10 to 20 minutes, but do not watch a clock just think “one.” If your mind wanders, gently pull it back to thinking “one” every time you exhale, “one,” every time you inhale, “one.” After 10 to 20 minutes, sit quietly for a few minutes more, sit with your eyes open. Don’t worry about doing it “right.” Relaxation will happen; allow it. Do this once or twice daily.
  3. Try to touch your ears with your shoulders. Hold this for a count of 4. Then let your shoulders drop. Now rotate each shoulder separately toward the rear. Do each shoulder 5 to 10 times. Then do both shoulders together.
  4. Lie down on your back, preferable on a firm surface. You will begin to contract and relax all the muscles in your body. Beginning with your feet, contract the muscles in your feet and then relax them. Now contract the muscles in your legs and thighs, and relax them. Move to your abdominals, low back, chest, upper back, arms and then neck. Now work your way down. After this sit and think of nothing for a few minutes.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.