Stress is an inevitable part of life. Seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes at least moderately with their lives, according to the most recent survey.
In looking at the causes of stress, remember that your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This has been labeled the “fight-or-flight” response.
Without stress management, all too often your body is always on high alert. Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems. Don’t wait until stress has a negative impact on your health, relationships or quality of life.
The first step in successful stress relief is deciding to make stress management an ongoing goal, and to monitor your stress level.
Once you start monitoring your stress level, the next step is identifying your stress triggers. When or under what situations do you experience the most stress? Some causes of stress are easy to identify, such as job pressures, relationship problems or financial difficulties. But daily hassles and demands, such as commuting, arranging child care or being overcommitted at work, also can contribute to your stress level.
Positive events also can be stressful. If you got married, started a new job and bought a new house in the same year, you could have a high stress level. While negative events in general are more stressful, be sure to also assess positive changes in your life.
Once you’ve identified your stress triggers, you can start thinking about strategies for dealing with them. Identifying what aspect of the situation you can control is a good starting point.
Relaxation techniques are an essential part of stress management. If you’re an overachiever, you may put relaxation low on your priority list. Don’t shortchange yourself. Everyone needs to relax and recharge.
Relaxation is invaluable for maintaining your health and well-being, and repairing the toll that stress takes on your mind and body.
Almost everyone can benefit from learning relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques can help to slow your breathing and to focus your attention on the here and now.
Common relaxation techniques include meditation, tai chi and yoga. But there are more-active ways of achieving relaxation. For example, walking outdoors or participating in a sports activity can be relaxing and help reduce stress.
And remember to maintain a healthy lifestyle to help manage stress — apart from good exercise, eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep. Having a healthy lifestyle will help you manage periods of high stress.
It doesn’t matter which relaxation technique you choose. What matters is that you select a technique that works for you and that you practice achieving relaxation regularly.
Stress won’t disappear from your life. And stress management isn’t an overnight cure. But with ongoing practice and incorporation of resiliency into your lifestyle, you can learn to manage your stress level and increase your ability to cope with life’s challenges.