How often do you feel overwhelm, fear, anxiety, or irritability? Do you experience frequent headaches, backaches, indigestion, fatigue or struggle with sleeping? Do you go to the doctor and test after test, they tell you nothing is wrong? If you answered, “Yes,” to any or all of those questions, you may be struggling from the silent killer called stress.
Stress has become a natural part of our society so it is nothing to say, “I’m so stressed out,” because who isn't right? An article written in the Public Personal Management Journal shared that from 1978-1998, there was an increase of 700 hours in a person’s time at work; that’s huge! I can only imagine what those numbers look like today.
So what is stress? Stress happens when the demands that are being placed on you exceed the available resources or energy you have available. Stress has serious implications on your health and well-being. Often stress is mistaken as a psychological phenomenon; however when stress is sustained for long periods of time, it can create chronic illness and even death; yes death.
Studies show that stress compromises the effectiveness of the immune system and that it can override our natural defenses against viruses that cause AIDS, chicken pox, and the common cold. Additionally, stress encourages the production of inflammation hormones in your body that can lead to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Shall I continue? Stress can cause digestive disorders, create depression and age the brain permanently.
When stress stays locked in your body for a long period of time, you may also experience physical symptoms like tense muscles, unfocused anxiety, dizziness and rapid heartbeats. So whether you are experiencing stress on the job or at home, you can see how important it is to get it under control. Your life literally depends on it.
When you or your company invests in wellness programs it eliminates some of the risks I mentioned above that come from stress. It also increases your productivity and energy levels.
Below are three ways to manage stress so you can be happy and healthy:
1. Breathe: Breathing as we all know is essential for life and it is your #1 tool for calming stress in the body. It has been known to reduce anxiety, depression, irritability, muscle tension and fatigue. Let’s try it, sit up straight or lay down and follow the instructions below. Let me know in the comments how this works for you.
Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
• Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
• Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
• Hold your breath for a count of seven.
• Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
• This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
We often do this type of breathing in my yoga classes which are also great for relieving stress.
2. Visualization: Did you know your imagination is a powerful resource you can call upon easily anytime you are stressed. This is one of my favorite practices because the beauty is that your mind cannot distinguish between what is real and unreal.This practice was developed by a french pharmacist, Emil Coue, who discovered that positive thinking could treat physical symptoms. All this practice requires is focus. There are many types of visualization but I am going to focus on what’s called receptive visualization.
All you do is clear your mind and take yourself to what I call your “happy place” which is a place that you find peace such has a beach, where the warm breeze is caressing your skin and blowing through your hair. Now let your senses engage in the experience, what do you see smell, hear, touch and taste? Now slowly breath in and out as you enjoy your happy place. Let this be your secret hide-away when life gets really hectic. Just pause for five minute then come back to what you were doing. Let me know how it works for you.
3. Time Management: Much of the stress people experience comes from the inability to effectively manage their time. The following are signs of poor time management: rushing, fatigue, missing deadlines, insufficient time for rest or personal relationships and the constant feeling of overwhelm. Below are three ways you can start managing your time better today:
- Create a daily to-do list the night before so you wake up with your intentions for your day.
- Use a planner or electronic device to plan out your time and stick with your schedule.
- Learn to say, “No” if an activity or conversation isn’t moving you closer to your goals and dreams say, “No.” to it during your productivity hours.
Now you might be thinking, that sounds great but how do you do it? Planning, commitment and staying off social media and email except for scheduled times. And did I say, laugh a lot. Laughter is great medicine for the soul.
I hope that after reading this article you can see the impact stress is having on your life and life of the ones you love. Don’t wait until its too late, you can prevent and relieve the symptoms starting today. If you need more support, I highly recommend seeing a therapist who can help. Don’t let shame or embarrassment keep you from living your best life.
Brock, M. E., PhD, & Buckley, M. R., PhD. (2012, April). The Role of Stress in Worker's Compensation: Past, Present and Future. Public Personnel Management, 41(1), 1-14.
Gonzalez, B. S. (2016, May). Three Breathing Exercises. Retrieved November 26, 2016, from http://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/
Davis, M., Eshelman, E. R., & McKay, M. (2008). The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Landy, F. J., & Conte, J. M. (2010). Work in the 21st Century: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.