Stress can come in many forms and from many different sources. With the way things are today, many of us are feeling over-booked in many areas of our lives. Due to cutbacks or downsizing we are now taking on more responsibilities and doing the job of two or sometimes three people. Aside from the workplace we have our own lives to handle as well. Whether it be kids, errands, pets, or whatever we are now stretched very thin and there never seems to be enough time in the day to do it all.
When it comes to stress there really isn’t a set definition because everyone reacts differently to stressors, therefore stress is subjective. However, I want to point out that not all stress is bad. Yes, can you believe it, some forms of stress in your life is actually good for you? The two forms of stress are eustress and distress. When stress enhances function, either physical or mental, it is considered eustress (the good kind). An example of this would be strength training or exercising. You are placing stress on your body, but in a good way because you are bettering your health in the process. On the other hand, persistent stress that is not resolved through coping or adaptation is referred to as distress (the not so good kind) and may result in anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and many other health related problems.
So what can we do to combat stress? The truth is, stress is a part of life, it’s how you deal with it that matters most. You can choose to pull your hair out or beat your head against a wall…..or find a healthy way of dealing with stress. I’d prefer the latter. So, the first defense against stress is to exercise. Exercising on a regular basis can help turn down the production of stress hormones, therefore helping to avoid damage to our health that prolonged stress can cause. Another proven way to deal with stress is meditation. Meditating on a regular basis calms the mind and body and helps lower the risk of having a negative reaction to a stressor. The good thing about this method is that it can be done anywhere. Just taking 10 minutes at your desk, stuck in a traffic jam, waiting in line at the bank, etc can help lower your stress levels. The important thing is to focus on your breathing and train yourself to stay calm in situations that normally cause a rise in stress. However, the longer you meditate, the more benefits you will see. Advanced meditators can significantly control their blood pressure and heart rate. Another important way to reduce stress is learning how to say “no”. Many of us, especially women, are people pleasers. We want to, and are kind of expected to, succeed in our career, take care of the kids, keep the house in order, and look put together all at the same time. We are supposed to handle it all and we often feel like failures if we ask for help in a certain area. Therefore we rarely take time for ourselves and let ourselves just say “no”. It is ok to not take on another assignment at work if your plate is already full, it is ok to ask for help with the kids, taking time for yourself and to keep yourself healthy is vital. So other recommendations are to take breaks. That could mean from work, whether it’s taking a walk during the day, or taking a day off here and there to decompress, or from your daily life altogether and taking regular vacations. Find something that you enjoy doing and that relaxes you. Most importantly find something you can do on a regular basis that won’t add extra stress to your life.