We are all affected by stress at some level or another, though we don’t like to admit it. Stress can be positive when it helps you achieve your goals, or implement a change in your lifestyle. But it’s obviously negative when it results in anxiety, depression and illness. This article can help you identify, prevent and deal with stress.
CAUSES OF STRESS
Most common causes of stress are:
- Work-related: This includes deadlines, overload of work, conflicts with the boss or co-workers, job insecurity, lack of recognition etc.
- Money-related: Financial crisis, credit card debt, mortgage, loss of job or just lack of money to do the things you really want
- Relationship-related: Lack of communication, understanding and trust with your partner, parents, kids or close friends
- General lack of fulfillment: Unfulfilled dreams and ambitions; failure in job or relationships
- Attitudes that cause stress: Certain traits and ways of seeing the world can cause stress. E.g. Pessimism, perfectionism, addictions, poor communication, anger, obsessing and other such negative behavior.
- Headaches: Certain types of headaches can be related to stress.
- More frequent colds or flu: There’s an inverse relationship between stress and immunity, so if you’re under too much stress, you may be getting sick more often.
- Sleep problems: There are many ways that stress affects sleep. Too much stress can rob you of sleep and make the sleep you get less restorative.
- General anxiety: Anxiety does serve an important function for survival, but if you’re feeling anxious much of the time, it could be because you have too many stressors in your life.
- Fuzzy thinking: Your body’s stress response pumps your body with hormones that make it possible for you to fight or flee quickly. But when triggered in excess, this stress response can actually cause you to think less quickly.
- Feelings of frustration: If you’re faced with many demands at once, the natural result for many people is increased frustration and irritability.
- Lowered libido: If you’re too tired for sex, or can’t seem to find the time for your partner, this can be due to stress in your life as well.
MANAGEMENT OF STRESS
Once you know what causes your stress, the obvious thing is to avoid the cause. But it’s not as simple as that. We can’t eliminate difficult situations from our lives, so we must learn how to deal with them. Few tips and attitudes:
- Let go of the past: Forgive everyone who had said or done things that hurt you. Maybe they didn’t mean to. Ask forgiveness for the things you have done to others. Make peace with your past. Also stop living in the ‘good old days’ – they were good because you lived in the present then.
- Stop worrying about the future: Most of the things we worry about never actually happen. On the other hand, setting goals and planning for a better tomorrow can actually help reduce stress.
- Be grateful: There are hundreds of things you can be grateful for – waking up alive; being healthy; having the senses to enjoy the beauty of life; food and water; a place to live, clothes, job; people you love, people who love you; your ability to read, write, create, think and more… This is only possible when you live in the present and acknowledge the good things in your life, right now. It’s difficult for someone with this attitude to get stressed out easily.
- Differentiate between situations and problems: Situations are things you cannot control or change e.g. weather, traffic, sickness, death, people, law, the world. The only choices you have are accept them or fight with them. Problems are things you can control or change e.g. health, relationships, skills, job, your attitudes, yourself. For me, this has been the single most powerful strategy for a happy life!
- Take time out: Sometimes getting away, even for a short while, can help change the focus. Take time to read, breathe, meditate, pray, exercise, or whatever provides a break from the stress. For me, it’s swimming, long walks, a good book or writing something that can help enhance lives.
How do you manage stress? Please share your tips through comments.