It comes as no surprise that people are stressed out in today’s fast-paced world. According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, 24 percent of adults in the U.S. report extreme levels of stress.
Where this stress comes from might surprise you. It’s not the big, life-changing events, such as the death of a loved one or welcoming a new baby into the family, that cause the most trouble. Rather, it’s the smaller daily hassles, like money, work, family responsibilities and health problems that are proving to be the biggest issues.
Many individuals just push through the stress and may not even notice that it’s a problem until it starts impacting his or her health or daily functioning. Even when common, stress-related symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems, anxiety, insomnia, eating issues, general aches and pains, and weakened immune system are present, they may not be attributed to stress. But if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, learning how to manage your stress effectively may actually help you reduce or eliminate them.
The first steps in managing stress are to identify where the stress is coming from and to recognize how you respond to these stressors. Managing the source of your stress is ideal, but this may sometimes be out of your control. When that happens, just being aware of the stressor can be helpful because you can prepare to manage it in advance. For example, if work stresses you out, take a couple of deep breaths before you open your email. This triggers a relaxation response and can lower the amount of stress you feel throughout the day.
Listen to your body to notice how you’re reacting to stressors. Do you eat more, eat less, drink, tense up, withdraw or lash out at loved ones? By recognizing how you respond to stress, you can learn to better manage it in healthy ways, which will reduce your risk for associated chronic, long-term health problems.
Some tried and true stress management techniques include deep breathing, exercise and being social. To best manage the buildup of stress, engage in healthy activities daily such as walking, exercising, getting enough sleep and eating healthy.
No matter how hectic life gets, it’s important to take time to do what you enjoy. Even little things like reading a book, listening to music or grabbing lunch with a friend can help. Participating in activities like these can combat the effects of all the hassles and stressors that are present in everyday life.