In the modern age, developing stress management skills are crucial. Most people are constantly bombarded with factors in life that cause both mind and body to become physically, psychologically, and emotionally stressed, or in the vernacular lexicon, “stressed out”. Evolution has not caught up with the advancements made by our civilization. The physical response experience when faced with a saber-toothed tiger threatening you or your children was an appropriate response – and was seldom needed.
In contrast, our bodies react the same way to something as mundane as being cut off in traffic, overwork, being criticized by a boss, or being short on funds when the rent is due. We show stress and anxiety symptoms on a daily basis.
This is unfortunate, as repeated exposure of the body to stress reactions is ultimately quite harmful, on both a physical and emotional level.
Over time, if stress and anxiety is not managed successfully, one may develop high blood pressure and be at the risk of heart attack, stroke, or both. Repeated exposure to stress can lower the immune system, making it more likely that you will become sick. The elevated hormones that are a result of stress can lead to weight gain, which in turn can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. Insomnia can be another result of stress, with all the attendant problems that sleep deprivation can create.
While these problems are bad enough, there are emotional and relational consequences to not practicing stress management as well. If one is constantly stressed out, one is more likely to engage in destructive behavior in one’s relationships. This can include yelling, criticizing, blaming, and in some cases even violence.
The number one cause of divorce in this country is arguing over finances – in short, being stressed out over one’s financial situation. The number of marriages that could be saved through proper stress management is in the millions.
Yet most people simply think they are stuck with their stress, and accept it as part of the human condition. They are unaware that we can take conscious control of our minds, our bodies and our lives through a proactive system of stress management. With the consequences for not managing the stress in one’s life being so high, why do so many avoid doing the things that would improve the quality of their lives?
Sadly, it is mostly simply lack of awareness or education. Stress management is ultimately simple and enjoyable; becoming actively engaged in managing your stress levels can lead to much higher levels of contentment, joy and happiness. In short, learning stress management techniques can teach you to create the life you truly wish for yourself. Ensuring you follow stress management tips that work is always beneficial to your wellbeing.
The number of stress management techniques is quite high – and ultimately, there are as many methods for managing stress as there are people. We are all different, so different methods and approaches will work better for some people than others. The secret is to simply begin being proactive, and to choose a number of methods that are conducive to your own personality. Beginning with things you truly enjoy doing is often the best approach.
If you job is a high source of frustration for you, then begin with a plan for improving your work life balance. What this means is that your job shouldn’t be number one – your life should be. As the old adage goes, we should work to live, not live to work. For some, this may simply mean making it clear to their employer that the workday is over at 5; that 40 hours is the limit. If this is not acceptable to your employer, then find another one.
You have to determine for yourself what is more important – your long term happiness, or your work. If, however, you are fortunate enough to truly love your job (only 20% of us do), then work-life balance may not be as important a factor as it is for the vast majority of people who are dissatisfied with their career.
For those, however, who find themselves in the latter group, one of the bravest and most important choices you can make is to develop a plan to change careers. Figure out what you would really enjoy doing for a living. Develop a 2 to 4 year plan to leave your current occupation, and put the plan into action. This doesn’t mean being irresponsible and simply quitting your job. It does, however, mean that you have a goal in mind that brings you some serenity and satisfaction. Knowing that your days are numbered in the career you don’t enjoy can be a great motivator. Looking forward to a new career that you do enjoy can engender hope. Both are effective tools in stress management.
Exercise is another critical component in stress management. It is one of the most effective weapons in your arsenal of potential tools to manage your stress. What you choose as your form of exercise is not so important. Starting exercise of some kind or another is. Developing any exercise program what so ever will work to alleviate and manage stress on a number of different levels. It will lower your blood pressure. It will elevate your mood. It will reduce the bad hormones in your body caused by stress, and increase the good hormones. It will raise serotonin levels as well as endorphins and dopamine, the feel good chemicals. Exercise has been found more effective than prescription drugs in combating depression, and should be a foundational element in any long-term plan for stress management. These are natural stress relief examples and there are many more.
Another extremely beneficial practice that can aid you in stress management is meditation. In recent studies, meditation has been found to improve mood regulation in as little as 30 minutes a day for two weeks. Long term, practitioners of meditation have been found to have literally rewired their brains in positive ways. Meditation results increased blood flow and neuron density in the areas of the brain that generate positive emotions and feels show. At the same time, the areas of the brain responsible for anger and other negative emotions actually shrink. Mediation can, quite literally, change your mind – for the better.
There are many other powerful tools one can use to begin managing the stress levels in your life. Social outlets, hobbies, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, positive thinking and ending bad habits such as procrastination and smoking are all useful methods for stress management. Yet simply beginning with the three methods described above – work life balance, exercise and meditation – can put your life on a new footing, and give you the strength, focus and serenity to complete the journey and create a life for yourself that will bring contentment, joy and happiness.