Some call it burnout. Others may call it an anxiety disorder. Buddhists refer to it as having a “monkey mind.” some call it burnout. Others may call it an anxiety disorder. Buddhists refer to it as having a “monkey mind.”
It’s stress. And it affects us all.
Some call it burnout. Others an anxiety disorder. Buddhists refer to it as having a monkey mind.
It’s stress and it affects us all.
In a recent analysis of chronic stress in the United States, 33% of Americans said they are, “living with extreme stress.” Almost half indicated that they are so stressed; they end up lying awake at night. The level of stress experienced by 77% causes physical symptoms.
So what can we do with this information?
While there’s certainly no one-size fits-all answer for chronic stress relief, we can offer some insights into how you might better manage your stress on the individual level and get some of that well-deserved stress relief. Every one of us has the power to tackle the monkey mind and achieve a calmer, happier life as a result.
Below, we’ll outline the best techniques for managing your stress. But first, let’s identify what stress is, what causes it, and how it can negatively affect your life when it’s left unchecked.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a response — in particular, your body’s response — to challenging feelings, situations, responsibilities, and threats. Stress happens naturally in your body, but it can manifest in many ways: physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Anahana Wellness Instructor Dr. Darlene Explains Stress
What Causes The Most Stress In Our Lives?
Stress is a response, and because everyone reacts differently to each different situation, it makes sense that what causes stress is unique to the individual. For example, while one person may become excessively stressed at the prospect of speaking in public, others relish the challenge of addressing a crowd but may find it much more stressful to be late for a meeting.
Furthermore, there are different levels or intensities of stress. These divided into three categories:
Small annoyances, causing mostly harmless stress.
These include things like accidentally spilling a drink at the table, forgetting someone's name who you’ve met before, or being late for a dinner party.
Medium challenges causing mid-level stress.
This level of stress involves things that are slightly more serious. For example, the knowledge that you may be downsized at your job, planning a wedding, or worrying about a family member going into surgery.
Dangerous situations causing debilitating stress.
Finally, these stressors are the most serious. They include such events as being diagnosed with a severe illness, losing your home to a natural disaster, or going through a divorce.
The Science of Stress: How Stress Hormones Work
In the short-term, most types of minor stress are benign (we’ll talk more about this later). We’re usually able to deal with these levels of stress. Problems with anxiety begin to occur when the stress response fight or flight1 is activated for too long or too often.
Fight or flight is a natural response that humans have built into our DNA. It’s a survival mechanism, brought on when we sense danger.
When an immediate threat is present — such as a bull charging right toward you or the strong smell of smoke when you wake up in the middle of the night — this brings about a flood of stress hormones. These hormones react in the body and produce an immediate physiological response.
The Stress Response Step-By-Step
The stress response happens so quickly and automatically that you’ll never notice the individual steps.
Basically, this is what’s going on in your brain when you have the stress response (fight or flight):
You experience a stressful scenario. Let’s say you see a car driving toward you at high speed. This information comes from your vision and hearing. Your eyes and ears send the message to your brain — specifically, to the amygdala, which is in charge of processing emotions.
Your amygdala recognizes the oncoming car as a severe danger and sounds the alarm to the command center of your brain — the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is in charge of motivating your body’s sympathetic nervous system. This is where fight or flight comes in. The neuroendocrine system is activated by the hypothalamus to produce adrenaline (epinephrine) within the adrenal glands.
The circulation of adrenaline causes a variety of changes. It quickens your heart rate, raises your blood pressure, makes your breathing faster, increases blood sugar to provide your body with more energy, and, ultimately, sharpens your senses.
While these responses continue, a second response connecting the nervous system and the endocrine system, called the HPA axis, is activated. If danger is still sensed, the hypothalamus (H) sends a hormone known as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) to the pituitary gland (P), which causes adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) to be released.
Finally, as ACTH activates the adrenal glands (A), they release the stress hormone cortisol.
You may have heard of cortisol2, sometimes referred to as the stress hormone. Cortisol stays at high levels when a continued threat is perceived (for example, if the car coming at you were to keep chasing you). However, if the cortisol stays in your system for too long and unnecessarily — essentially pressing down on your body’s alarm button — this can cause problems for your heart and other organs.
Side Effects Of Chronic Stress
The stress response, or fight or flight response, can be useful. When we need it!
However, the bad news is that this response can be brought on by situations that aren’t serious threats to our survival. These are merely perceived threats. For example, our bodies may begin to produce the same fight or flight stress hormones in reaction to mostly minor challenges or obstacles — accidentally making a faux pas in public, getting stuck in traffic, or receiving a bad grade on a report.
It’s important to pay attention to when these non-life-threatening scenarios continually produce the hormonal stress response. When chronically activated, the prolonged stress response can cause you harm. For example, many people want to know how stress affects the immune system, digestion, and cardiovascular health — all of which are common areas that are impacted by excess stress. Here are some of the specific health problems associated with chronic stress3:
Impairment of concentration.
Impairment of memory.
A weaker immune system.
Cardiovascular issues, including stroke and heart attack.
Stress, especially in a chronic state, can also have profound effects on the brain. Stress not only changes the morphology of individual neurons, but it also reduces both grey matter and white matter density.
Stress Suppresses Immunity
Our immune system defends from threats, both inside and outside of the body. Immune cells detect and eliminate pathogens that can cause disease. They also sniff out malignant cells that can develop into cancers. Under acute stress, the immune system is mobilized for a swift response. However, in a situation of chronic stress, the immune system is suppressed by cortisol. A weakened immune system means less ability for our body to defend against endogenous and exogenous threats. In other words, we get sick more often and more easily when we are under chronic stress.
Cortisol and immunity
Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials
Some Stress Is Good
Stress is a part of life.
Most of us don’t like to hear this because we dream of an existence that’s both stress and worry free. And why wouldn’t we? This is a perfectly rational desire.
However, the truth is that not one of us would be here without stress. It’s how our ancestors stayed alert and, therefore, alive when predators lurked in the dark. Stress is also what protects you and tells you to quicken your pace and stay out of the shadows as you walk home alone at night.
We need some stress as a catalyst to keep us alert, motivated, and driven to succeed.
It’s also crucial to remember that even annoying and disruptive stress, which isn’t helpful, is simply a part of life. This is another way of saying that life presents ups and downs. That’s unavoidable. Life would be very dull and static if it didn’t. Toasters break, favorite sweaters get lost, and cookies burn. Sometimes, even worse things happen, friends drift apart, jobs are lost, or loved ones get ill.
Once you start to shift your mindset and understand that life will never be perfect, you can learn to accept this fact and live better. Through acceptance of at least some level of stress in your life, you’ll be better able to let go in the Buddhist sense. Jack Kornfield, a teacher of American Theravada Buddhism, explains this well4:
“In this human incarnation, we experience a continuous ebb and flow of pleasure and pain, gain. Therefore and loss. Inhabiting our human society is the same: we encounter praise and blame, fame and disrepute, success and failure, arising and passing constantly.”
Kornfield suggests adopting Buddhism’s Third Noble Truth5
to learn to accept these notions. This Noble Truth is referred to as the Cessation of Suffering, achieved through letting go of our tendency to cling.
In other words, we must release our tendencies to hold on to things. We do not need to have all green lights on our way to work and blemish-free skin. It is not necessary to have a flawless record of paying your bills on time. We do not have to strive for perfection in the workplace, an ideal relationship with our partner, and other so-called perfect habits and situations.
It’s natural to want all of these things, but it’s in clinging to them that suffering by way of excess stress is caused.
Those who resist letting go will also continue to suffer. This is when chronic stress enters the scene. Although some stress is good while some types are neutral, chronic stress is a terrible burden for anyone to bear.
Is There Too Much Stress In Your Life? Ask Yourself These Questions
Not sure if you have too much stress in your life or just an average amount? Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to five or more of the issues, chronic stress may be something you should look into.
Do you often feel overwhelmed?
Are you kept awake at night by troubling thoughts?
Do you grind or clench your teeth? (Most common at night during sleep.)
Have you noticed your heart beating rapidly or your breath quickening when in relatively minor (non-threatening) stressful situations?
Do you experience racing thoughts?
Ever avoid certain situations that you know will cause you stress, but that are not actually harmful or sometimes even necessary? For example, going to a work party or visiting your doctor for a checkup.
Do you struggle with stress-related muscle tension — typically found in the head, neck, shoulders, and upper back?
Have you suffered stress-related gastrointestinal symptoms, such as stomach pains, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea?
Have you experienced a drop in sexual desire?
Do you find yourself turning to drugs or alcohol before or during stressful situations?
Is it a challenge to focus on tasks at home or work?
Is near-constant worry about various challenges in your life something you experience regularly?
Do you experience chest pain when confronted with stress?
Are low self-esteem, a lack of self-confidence, or depression common issues in your life?
Do you frequently feel like you are out of control or spiraling?
What Is Stress Management?
Stress management6 is a way to combat the stress that inevitably enters our lives on a regular basis. As stated previously, there’s no way to eliminate all stress. Fortunately, there are coping strategies for stress. This leads us to understand that accepting and managing inevitable stress is a cornerstone of keeping the harmful effects of chronic stress at bay.
As the American Heart Association notes on its website, “Your mind deserves better than to be loaded down with the never-ending job of worrying!”
You can help your mind by employing regular stress management techniques or coping strategies for stress.
Why Is Stress Management Important?
Everyone requires stress management. Whether you realize it or not, you’re likely already using stress management techniques in your life. Of course, not all techniques that people use are positive. For instance, handling stress with drugs, alcohol, or excessive spending are decidedly negative strategies.
Finding better strategies is a must and it’s essential to seek out those that work for you.
Remember that everyone is different and that means not all stress management techniques will match what you need personally. That’s okay. It’s crucial to find the management techniques that vibe with your unique personality and challenges.
8 Stress Management Strategies to Try
There are several different ways to handle stress and pressure. Below is a list of useful stress relief techniques to try in your own life. Again, look for those that resonate with you. Try out several, and don’t feel bad if specific strategies simply don’t help. The goal is to locate your unique stress management style.
- Mindfulness Practice
This is the practice of learning to focus 100% on what is going on in the present moment. Notice everything as it comes, including full awareness of your body, mind, and all thoughts, emotions, and feelings that enter your consciousness. You can be mindful anytime, anywhere.
- Meditation Practice
Meditation is more formal than mindfulness — although it can also be done while walking or even in a public space.
Meditation practices can vary, but one of the core goals is to quiet the monkey mind that so many of us struggle with. This concept refers to the sensation of your mind switching from one idea, thought, realization, or feeling to the next at high speed — similar to the way that a monkey swings from branch to branch.
This tendency to bounce back-and-forth from thought to emotion can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety and tension. But meditation can help by promoting focus on one thought, emotion, or sensation at a time.
Generally, meditation practice involves centering the mind on something specific — such as the breath. By focusing on the in and out of breaths, the practitioner learns to notice intruding thoughts or sensations, to observe them, then let each one go before returning to the breath.
This is only one basic iteration of meditation; there are many others. But it’s an excellent place to start. Over time, consistent meditation can lead to lower stress levels, improved concentration, and a calmer mind that no longer swings from branch to branch like a monkey.
- Deep Breathing Strategies
Deep breathing techniques can be implemented into meditation practices or used on their own and are an excellent tool to handle stress. Here’s a simple one to start with called box breathing:
- Sit in a comfortable position, and close your eyes.
- Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
- Starting with an inhale, push your stomach out as you take air into your lungs. Count to 4 as you do.
- Hold the breath softly for another 4 count.
- Slowly allow the air to exhale from your lungs as you feel the hand on your stomach go down for a count of 4.
- The hand on your chest should barely move. Repeat this process 4 times.
The box breathing benefits are endless. Really something you should give a try!
Yoga incorporates ideas of mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing with physical movements and poses. The incorporation of the physical can add to your flexibility, overall fitness, and oneness between the mind and body.
- Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is a mind-body practice and a deep meditative state that can be achieved through guided meditation. The phrase means yogic sleep in Hindi.
Using yoga Nidra to combat stress is effective because it helps you access your rote thinking patterns in a brand-new state and ideally, to alter them and become more accepting of life’s ups and downs. This state rests right on the brink of sleep when you are deeply drawn within and resting semi-hypnotically. Yoga Nidra can also help you sleep better and improve cognitive performance.
- Creating A Simpler Environment
Clutter in your life can lead to clutter in your mind. Cleanliness, organization, and simplification of environmental spaces (like your bedroom or office) can have profound effects on your wellbeing and stress levels.
- Cultivating A Better Diet And Lifestyle With More Physical Activity
What you eat and how much you exercise greatly affects your health, as does your daily hydration — both physically and mentally. You can help reduce unnecessary stress in your life by avoiding drugs, alcohol, caffeine, excess sugar, and by exercising regularly.
A sedentary lifestyle and foods like alcohol and sugar often leave you feeling sluggish and tired. This is a recipe for added stress. Participating in regular cardiovascular exercise and eating healthy foods, on the other hand, will give you the energy you need to go about your day, keeping your mind awake and alert to handle stress while maintaining your hormones in check.
- Improved Sleep
Getting the sleep you need each night will improve stress levels by keeping your energy levels high as well. When you do encounter unavoidable stress during the day, you’ll have a higher capacity for dealing with it and better control of your innate stress responses.
How to reduce stress
By implementing some of the stress management techniques above, you stand a good chance to reduce stress in your everyday life. You will not only be able to lower stress but you will also handle stress better and work out coping strategies for it that suit you.
It’s important that we not only learn what our triggers are but also how to manage stress. Coping with it is an essential factor in improving the quality of life. Whichever coping strategy you choose depends on the one you feel works best for you. Everyone is different, and no one tool fits all. That’s why choosing the coping strategy that works for you is so crucial. An essential tool in this process could be stress management worksheets or guides that help you get things under control.
Our Anahana Wellness Instructors are all certified in stress management and will be able to help you. They will guide you and assist you to find a way that works for you.
Stress Management For Business Professionals
Like other stressors in life, a certain amount of workplace stress may be unavoidable. However, excess stress is all too common7. The World Health Organization (WHO)8 blames several factors for stress in the workplace, including:
- Low workplace support
- Interpersonal conflicts
- Lack of latitude and recognition in the decision-making process
Anyone can experience workplace stress; however, C-level professionals appear to have the most challenging time dealing with stress. Here are several key tips that can assist if you are experiencing excess stress as a business professional.
Try walking meetings.
Walking meetings are just what they sound like. Instead of having a meeting in a stuffy office or boardroom, take the meeting outdoors, and walk while you talk. Holding your meetings outside allows you and the others in your meeting to get some fresh air, exercise, and freedom while you discuss and collaborate. Nature therapy, also known as Forest Bathing, is an excellent example of this.
Learn to handle decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is a phenomenon that occurs when individuals face making decisions after decisions in a short period of time. By the last one, the quality of the individual’s decisions has often deteriorated. Leading to poor choices — such as eating cake and ice cream for dinner after a hard day at work or shouting at your children when they ask for help with their homework.
Handling decision fatigue means limiting the number of decisions you need to make in a day as much as possible. This can happen through simplification of your work-life overall and better delegation of tasks. Having a rote process for making decisions, giving yourself more time for decision-making, and learning to limit your options when you must make an important decision.
Stress Management For Teens
Teenagers often undergo a tremendous amount of stress in relation to their changing bodies, an overload of schoolwork, relationship and friendship ups and downs, and the anxiety of social and societal pressures.
Teens often note feelings of nervousness, fatigue, and trouble concentrating. Feeling overwhelmed is another common complaint. The following tips can particularly help with these anxieties, and for teens to manage stress better.
Focus On Sleep
Getting enough sleep can be especially challenging for teenagers. This is because the demands on teens are often uniquely high. Most of them spend all day in school, go to sports, other practices or lessons after school, and come home to finish up multiple assignments of homework.
When your schedule is like this, however, that’s when it’s most important to focus on sleep. Teens should:
- Try to go to sleep around the same time every night.
- Not take phones and other digital devices into bed.
- Sleep more on the weekends if that’s the only time to catch extra hours.
- Avoid biting off more than they can chew and burning the candle at both ends — especially when it causes lack of sleep.
Take Time Away From social media.
While social media can be a great way to stay connected with friends, keep up to date on the news, and have some fun, too much time devoted to sites like Facebook and Instagram can cause excess stress. Many teenagers find themselves comparing their lives to the ones that their friends and classmates present online.
It's important to remember that, first of all, social media is not real life. We don't post about the bad things that happen or the challenges that we face, and this often makes it look like certain people have a perfect life.
Furthermore, focusing on social media essentially means staring into a screen for hours at a time. Something that isn't good for our brains or bodies. Take breaks from social media. Put your phone or tablet in a drawer and go outside, have a meal with your friends, or partake in your favorite (non-screen) hobby. This will remind you that life is about more than how many Facebook friends you have or how many likes you get on Instagram.
Stress Management for College Students
College stress can be especially problematic when it comes to stress. According to Harvard University9, “1 in 5 students surveyed reported thoughts of suicide in [the] last year.” Experts believe this is brought on by the onslaught of new experiences presented during college — from novel living circumstances and friendships to budding romantic relationships and a host of new responsibilities.
The following are several stress management techniques uniquely catered to college students.
Make it a point to stay organized.
Staying organized in college will be a huge boon to your psyche. Many college students are so excited to go off to school that the added responsibilities of their new lifestyle slip by them at first. Before they know it, assignment due dates are floating by, missing classes, and grades begin to plummet.
Naturally, this causes much stress.
That's why it’s crucial to remember that your primary focus at college should be learning. This isn't to say that you shouldn't have fun with your friends and other activities as well. But when you can stay on top of your studies by maintaining an organized lifestyle, this sense of accomplishment and dedication will silence many of the most common stressors present in college students.
Don’t be ashamed to reach out for help.
University and college campuses have numerous resources for students who are experiencing abnormally high levels of stress. That’s good news. The bad news is that many students feel shame or guilt over asking for help when they need it.
Getting assistance by way of therapy or counseling is never something to be ashamed of. It’s the smart thing to do when you notice your stress levels getting too high. If you’re experiencing excess stress in your life, do a quick online search of what resources are available on your campus. Even writing the phone number and address of your school’s counseling services on a piece of paper and keeping it in your planner can help remind you that when you need it, help is always there.
Stress Management For Busy Parents
Parents deal with huge amounts of stress — and it never stops. From the moment your first child is born, the stress of ensuring their safety, health, and happiness can feel both completely necessary and overwhelming.
Dealing with stress as a parent and the many faces it can take on, depending on your circumstances, often revolves around reminding yourself that you are both a parent and an individual. Use the following tips to help yourself deal with parental stress and learn how to relax, even if it's just for a few minutes now and then.
Take time for yourself.
You’ve given your children so much — food, shelter, and, most of all, unconditional love and support. Of course, this is what you’re there for. That is your role.
But how often do you give yourself unconditional love and support? It is essential to take time to nurture yourself through self-compassion and self-care. This means not focusing your entire being on your children at all times. Cultivate hobbies and activities that are just your own. Involve yourself with friends who are not just parents of your children’s friends. Spend time alone.
Take time for your relationship.
There are many relationship combinations in a given family. There is the entire family unit relationship, the relationships between multiple siblings, the unique ones between each parent and each child, and the relationship with your parents.
Whether your partner is also a parent to your children or someone new in your life, cultivating this relationship is essential. Make time for date night. Have your own inside jokes. Close the door to your bedroom without feeling guilty. Have alone time together where you don’t only discuss parenting and the kids.
Doing these things will not only affect your own stress levels, but they will also help you to be a better parent.
Stress Management for New Mothers
Both mothers and fathers can experience stress when a new baby arrives, but often, new mothers bear the brunt of the responsibilities — at least for a while. Nine months of pregnancy, the pains and stresses of childbirth and breastfeeding (if this is something you choose to do), and the close bond you feel with your baby are all unique to moms.
During each of these phases, stress can come in varying waves of intensity. You may find yourself in a panicked frenzy at one moment and crying the next, making dealing with stress a priority. New moms can use the following stress management techniques to help deal with this often-exhilarating, yet challenging time called post-partum.
So many new mothers think that their feelings and emotions during this turbulent time are unique to them. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. All new moms have a certain amount of mandatory stress during this period — it’s perfectly normal.
The goal is to realize this and to speak to other mothers about it. While speaking with your partner or a therapist can certainly help as well, it’s best to find a mothers group, friends who are moms, or others who have been through the same scenario. They might even be generous enough to offer you some stress relief gifts that worked for them while they were in your shoes. Speaking with these women can help you realize that your post-partum stress is normal, and the worst of it will subside with time.
Ask for help.
New moms have the tendency to assume all responsibilities related to their baby. Of course, this makes sense. They have essentially been in charge of the baby for nine months. Now, it’s hard to let this feeling of complete responsibility go. Yet, it’s extremely important.
While you’ll always be your child’s mother, it’s crucial to pass on some of the responsibilities of caring for your baby to others. This includes the baby’s father, older siblings, other family members, and friends who offer to help. It’s simply not possible to be a perfect mom who does everything. Furthermore, it’s increasingly difficult to be a good mother when you don’t give yourself time to take a shower or a bubble bath, organize your personal life, and continue cultivating your own hobbies and interests. In order to do these things, however, you must ask for help.
Stress Management Activities
There are several options for you out there to help you reduce the stress in your life, both at work and at home. You can participate in stress management activities to get a break from the cause of your increased stress levels, helping you to disconnect and recharge. As mentioned above, there are several options you should consider in an effort to reduce your stress levels and get some of that well-needed stress relief.
Yoga - Doing a yoga session online will help you reduce stress. There are different styles of yoga that can help you with anything from stress and anxiety to sleeping disorders and depression.
Meditation - Is an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mental health. It will teach you to be present at the moment, and help you in general with your stress response. Learn relaxation techniques, which could not only assist with stress; they might also be beneficial in other areas such as lowering your blood pressure and teaching you to cope with stressful situations better.
Pilates -To work off some of that stress and anxiety, do a pilates session two to three times a week. Work off some of that excess energy, reduce some of the stress levels while improving your physical health. Spending time on yourself, taking care of yourself, is essential, and the positive effects you will receive are well worth it. Never tried pilates before, why not give Pilates for beginners a try!
Breathing - One of the best ways to deal with the adverse effects of stress is by using different breathing techniques such as box breathing or 4-7-8 breathing. You will see a stress reduction in your daily life, and whenever the stress levels become too much, take a few minutes, step aside and perform one of these breathing techniques for 5 to 10 minutes, and you will see positive effects fairly immediately.
How To Cope With Stress
How do you handle stress and pressure? We have different ways to cope with stress or deal with stressful situations. There is no magical pill or way where one method works for everyone. You simply have to find what functions for you and stick with it. However, we highly recommend breathing, meditation, and stress management tools for dealing with everyday stress. For some, breathing works excellently, while for others, meditation is the answer. When it comes down to it, it is all about you. It's how you feel and react and all about your coping abilities. The last thing you want to happen is to get stressed out, to a point where you can’t see a way out. Be so stressed out that you don't know which foot to stand on. We are here to help you avoid such situations, so don't hesitate to reach out if you feel you need help. Of course, all stress is not negative stress. There is also positive stress, and you just have to be able to tell the difference between the two.
Your Actions Have Consequences
We also have to understand that your actions have consequences and that you need to prepare for them. You must remember that it's not all about you. Some of the decisions you make could affect others, so keep it in the back of your head that it is not all about you. Think about this when you are facing a tough decision, what impact it could have on you, how to deal with it, and how it could affect others. If you know that your decision could result in causing a stress response for others, you should prepare for it, and if possible, offer a solution to it in terms of support or encouragement. If the decision you are making is affecting several others, you could offer stress management group activities, helping everyone deal with the additional stress that they have been put under. Stress management group activities are an excellent tool to help a larger group of individuals deal with it. A group unwind your mind session or meditation session would be a perfect example of such an activity.
Stress Management: Frequently Asked Questions
Does Stress Cause Physical Diseases?
Above, we discussed the physical, emotional, and mental ramifications of chronic stress. However, many people wonder whether these are correlations or causations. In other words, is there obvious evidence that chronic stress causes physical diseases like a heart attack or diabetes?
There is no hard-and-fast answer to this question. However, the links between certain types of physical illness and chronic stress have been continually chronicled.
A recent study in Australia10, for example, found that men aged 45 to 79 had a 30% increase in their risk of a heart attack when they had high or very high levels of psychological stress in their lives. Excessive psychological stress among women resulted in a 44 percent increase in their risk of stroke.
Another study11 looked at the physical effects on those who had recently been through earthquakes — obviously stressful events. This study found that:
“There is an increased risk for pulmonary embolism in the wake of earthquakes … In 2004, Central Nigata, Japan, was struck by 3 strong earthquakes and 90 aftershocks in the ensuing week. One hundred thousand residents were evacuated from their homes, and many of them spent nights sleeping in their cars. The combination of psychological stress and the relative immobilization in cars resulted in a dramatic increase in pulmonary embolism.”
Does Chronic Stress Run in Families?
Some anxiety disorders have been shown to run in families. Furthermore, there may be evidence that stress-linked disorders, such as depression, might have genetic connections.
However, chronic stress is generally a sign of an environmental issue, such as a stressful job, financial problems, or a recent breakup. It may also be linked to excess anxiety. For the most part, research has not shown that specific individuals have a predisposition to become excessively stressed.
What Can Happen if Chronic Stress is Left Unchecked?
Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your mental, physical, and emotional health. That’s why it’s crucial to deal with stress at its onset as completely as possible. Unchecked stress has been linked with eating disorders, mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, cardiovascular diseases, hair and skin problems, and gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
What about “Good Stress” or “Eustress”?
Eustress is the term professionals use for good stress or positive stress. Mostly, it’s stress that comes from positive events in your life — such as landing a job or promotion, getting married, or having a baby. These events can bring on feelings of accomplishment, joy, and pleasure while still causing a stress response.
Think about the nervousness you might feel on your first day at a new job or the all-too-common jitters of a first date. These events may be outside of your comfort zone, but you do them willingly. This is eustress, and it’s an important type of stress that can empower you to grow emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Results of eustress include learning new things, pushing your boundaries (safely), achieving more in your work and personal life, and increasing your positive habits — such as exercising daily and eating a more balanced diet.
Take Control Of The Stress In Your Life
From fears about job security and financial challenges to worries about health and relationship issues, stress is ever-present. But how you handle stress is what’s important.
The amazing thing about your life is that you dictate how you manage it. Anyone can change their life for the better — and you don’t need permission to do so. The teachings and information above are to help and guide you on your quest to a life that is less stressful, less riddled with anxiety, and more full of peace.
Embrace and trust the process. Learn to let go. Remember that each challenge that you meet along your path has something to teach you. If you listen and study these events, you will become wiser and healthier as a result, and chronic stress will have less of a hold over you.
Stress Management Resources
- The American Psychological Association (APA)
- Mayo Clinic
- The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Embrace and trust the process. Learn to let go. Remember that each challenge that you meet along your path has something to teach you. If you listen and study these events, you will become wiser and healthier as a result, and chronic stress will have less of a hold over you.