Although National Stress Awareness Month is not until April, January seems like a good time to work on reducing stress in your life. It is a new year- a new beginning- and the holidays, which are often stressful for many people, are out of the way.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, stress does not just afflict your mind, it can also cause physical problems such as headaches, stomach disorders, increased risk of stroke and heart disease, and a weaker immune system. Humans have evolved with a “fight or flight” automatic stress response when facing imminent danger, from the times when survival was a daily struggle. This automatic response is what causes the stress hormones to rush into your bloodstream and increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels. However, in our modern world, most of us no longer have to worry about being killed by bears, tigers, mountain lions, etc. while hunting. Instead, more mundane things such as jobs, financial debt, family problems, relationships, and school trigger the stress response.
Some situations can be changed to decrease stress, but when you cannot change the situation, there are other ways of coping. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, you must first recognize whether or not it is a situation that can be changed. For example, if you are stressed about your grades in school, you can change the situation by going in for tutoring or studying harder. However, if you are stressed about your job or family problems, those are not always situations that can be changed. Secondly, instead of getting anxious about the situations you cannot change, you should recognize that you do have control over your own reactions to situations. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control, and develop a vision for how you want to be in the future. Set realistic goals to make this vision a reality.
Set aside some time for yourself to relax, no matter how short it may be. Even a few minutes a day can help. Do whatever is fun or relaxing to you, like reading a book, going for a run, talking to a friend or loved one, meditating, or doing yoga. You cannot avoid all stress, but the goal is to minimize it as much as possible so that you can lead a happier and healthier life.
For more ideas on how to get started, check out these links: