How stress can affect your health, and some ways to control it.
What is stress?
Is it the feeling of fear that comes from facing a tough day at work? Is it the knot in your stomach from dealing with a problem family member? Is it just the pressures that everyday life puts on us all?
The answer to all these questions is “yes.” Everybody feels stress in different ways. And there is no single definition that everyone can agree on. Stress can be caused by “bad” things like a sick family member or car problems. But it can also be caused by “good” things, like the arrival of a new baby. This should be a very happy time for a family. But caring for a baby can also be the source of worry and stress. Another example: the holidays. Christmas can be a very happy time of year. But buying gifts, decorating, and dealing with relatives can raise stress levels to new heights.
Things that stress some people out can make other people happy. Ehealthmd.com has some great examples.
- Some people like public speaking, others are scared.
- Some people work better under pressure, others fall apart.
- Some people like helping family members in hard times, others find it very stressful.
The truth is that stress is not just one thing. It’s many things to many people. But science has shown that when stress is not controlled, it can lead to real problems. On their website, The American Institute of Stress lists 50 things that stress can cause. Here are just a few:
- dry mouth, problems swallowing
- weight gain
- trouble sleeping, nightmares
- panic attacks
- more use of drugs, alcohol or cigarettes
- chest pain
- feeling like you are worthless
As you can see, when stress isn’t controlled, it can cause many problems. And these can lead to even more problems. In many cases, stress about one thing can lead to even more stress and worry about other things. If a person’s home life is stressful, they could begin to have problems at work. They could be late and not do a good job. That could then lead to more stress and even sickness.
Controlling stress is the key.
In today’s world, there really is no way to not have some stress. Most people have to work to make money. And even people with money face stress. There are likely very few people who don’t have some sort of stress. So what can you do? The best answer is simple: control it. Learn to lower stress in your life. Recognize stress and soften its blow. There are many tested ways to lower stress. Not all of these work for every person. So find the ones that work for you and stick with them.
Here, we give you just a few stress-relieving ideas. We hope you find them useful. We also hope that you come up with your own ideas on how to live with less stress.
Managing stress at home.
One of the best ways to begin lowering your stress levels is to find out what’s causing it. Recognizing that an extra-busy week, a new baby or a home repair is causing you to worry is the first step in dealing with your stress. Once you know what’s causing it, you can reduce the amount of stress it causes.
WebMD.com offers these tips to help you control stress in your daily life
- Learn better ways to use your time. You may get more done with less stress if you make a schedule, planning out your days and weekends in advance.
- Find better ways to deal with stress. Be honest about what works and what does not. Think about other things that might work better.
- Take good care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Eat well. Don’t smoke. If you drink alcohol, try to drink less.
- Work on letting go of things you cannot change.
- Talk it out. Speak up about things that are bugging you. Talk to a friend or family member, or even a counselor.
So now that you know some ways to control stress, how can you relieve the stress you already have? Again, WebMD has some great tips:
- Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Walking is a great way to get started.
- Write. It can help to write about things that are bothering you.
- Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and show anger when you need to with someone you trust.
- Do something you like. A hobby can help you relax. Work that helps others can be a great way to lower stress.
- Learn ways to relax your body and mind. This can include breathing exercises, massage, aromatherapy, yoga, or relaxing exercises like tai chi. Focus on the present, not what tomorrow will bring. Listen to relaxing music.
You can read the whole story at here.
Managing stress at work.
Let’s face it. Work can be one of the biggest causes of stress. Whether it’s a problem boss, a tough task, or simply the pressure of making a living, job stress is shared by almost everyone who works.
But just like at home, there are many ways to help you handle on-the-job stress. Some will work better for you than others. The best idea is to try several and stick with the ones that work best for you.
Seven simple tips for reducing stress at work
- Get away from it all. Take a walk around the block. Stop thinking about whatever is bothering you for a little while. Sometimes, when you give a problem some distance, it seems smaller.
- Confront the problem. Often, the longer you avoid dealing with something stressful, the more you worry and the worse things get. So don’t put off handling a difficult task or job. If you need to, talk with a co-worker or your boss to get help.
- Leave work at work. If you can, try to stop thinking about work when you go home. Save your nights for fun, rest and relaxation. Thinking about work all of the time does not allow your mind to rest.
- Don’t skip lunch. Some people will sometimes keep on working right through lunch. This can not only be unhealthy, it can also reduce your ability to do your best work, which can lead to additional stress and worry. If you can, don’t eat at your desk or station. Eat out sometimes. Other times, bring your lunch. But try eating it in the park or at least in a break room or conference room.
- Say “no,” at least sometimes. The Mayo Clinic points out that by saying no once in a while, you can do a better job on work you already have. Saying no also can keep you from getting overwhelmed and frustrated.
- Exercise and stretch. Forbes.com recommends standing in a doorway and holding your right arm straight out in front of you, against the frame. Take a step and turn your body to the left. This reduces muscle tension in your upper back, allowing you to better hold yourself upright. You can also simple take a moment to sit up straight and do simple stretches right in your chair. This can make your body feel better, relieve tension, and let you move on with less stress.
- Have fun. Work can be very serious. It seems like there are always problems to be handled. But that does not mean that you can’t try to have a good time at work and let off some steam. Look for the humor in everyday situations. Make a joke in a meeting to lighten the mood. Smile as much as you can. Having fun at work does not mean that you’re not doing a good job. It simply allows you to do your work with less stress.
Life can be hard. Work can make you worry. And stress is unfortunately a part of life many days. But it doesn’t have to be a big part. So try some of the tips listed above. Or come up with your own ways to relieve stress in your life. Whatever you do, remember one thing. When you learn to control stress, it can’t control you.
Mental health problems affect nearly half of Americans at some point in life. How are your coping skills?
About half of Americans will run into a mental health problem at some point in their lives. This figure comes from a report in USA Today. There are “unacceptably high levels of mental illness in the United States,” said Ileana Arias who is the principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It isn’t clear why so many Americans suffer from mental illness, Arias added. “This is an issue that needs to be addressed,” she said. Especially since mental and physical health are so closely linked. Studies show that mental problems can lead to physical problems, among them long-term illness like heart disease and cancer.
What is emotional health?
Emotionally healthy people are in control of their feelings – their emotions – and how they behave. They can handle life’s challenges. They can build strong relationships. They care about their physical health. Most important, they lead lives they feel are useful and have meaning.
People who are mentally and emotionally healthy:
- Have a sense of contentment
- Have zest for living, and can laugh and have fun
- Can deal with stress and bounce back from negative things
- Can learn new things and adapt to change
- Can balance work and play
- Can build and keep fulfilling relationships
- Have self-confidence and high self-esteem
All these can help you cope with life’s challenges and stresses. Even when bad things happen, emotionally healthy people can bounce back.
What do healthy people know?
Do these people have a secret the rest of us don’t know about?
Yes, they do. They know that mental health is just like physical health. You have to work to keep your mind in top shape. Exercise. Eating healthy foods. Staying active. Most of us know what it takes to keep our bodies healthy. But many of us have no idea what it takes to be strong mentally.
The more time and energy you invest in your emotional health, the better it will be. There are many things you can do to boost your mood. You can build your resilience, which means your ability to bounce back from life’s problems. You can also learn how to get more joy out of life.
How can we improve our mental health?
The biggest key is to keep flexibility and balance in your life. By “bending instead of breaking,” you can deal with stressful situations and traumatic events.
The American Psychological Association offers a few ideas for doing this:
- Let yourself feel strong emotions. Then, learn how to manage what you do when you feel them.
- Don’t avoid your problems. Learn how to meet the demands of daily living. You should also learn how to take a break and rest. Resting helps recharge your batteries.
- Spend time with loved ones. They can be great for support and encouragement. At the same time, you must also take care of yourself.
- Give yourself a pat on the back every now and then. This is very important. If you don’t tell yourself “good job,” who will?
Physical health is part of mental and emotional health.
You’ve heard the old saying about “sound mind and sound body.” When you improve your physical health, you feel better both mentally and emotionally. For example, exercise does more than strengthen your heart and lungs. Exercise also releases chemicals called endorphins. These powerful chemicals energize you and lift your mood.
Also, to stay healthy mentally, you have to make smart choices every day. Here are some great ideas to strengthen your mental health.
Get your sleep. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep each night in order to be at their best. Give more sleep time a try. You might be surprised!
Learn about good nutrition and make it part of your life. Learn as much as you can about what you eat. Find out how it affects your energy and mood. You’ll discover that the better you eat, the better you can feel.
Exercise! Exercise can make a big difference in dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity to your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go on a short walk. Every day, try to get 30 minutes or more of exercise.
Get a dose of sunlight every day. Sunlight lifts your mood, so try to get at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun each day. You can get your sunlight while you exercise, garden, or go out with friends.
Limit alcohol and avoid cigarettes and other drugs. These are known as “stimulants” because they an unnatural way to make you feel good in the short term. But constant use is bad for your mood, and your emotional health.
Take care of yourself. Don’t let stress and negative emotions build up. Keep a balance between work and the things you enjoy. When you take care of yourself, you can better handle challenges when they arise.
Endorphins: our bodies’ natural antidepressants.
Earlier in this article, we talked about endorphins. Endorphins are natural chemicals made by your body. When they’re released, they have a powerful, positive effect on your emotional well-being. But exercise isn’t the only way to release the benefits of endorphins.
Here are a few endorphin-releasing activities that don’t involve exercise.
Make things better for someone else. Helping others and being thanked for what you do can help build self-esteem.
- Practice self-discipline. Self-control naturally makes you feel – well, more in control. This is very useful when something in your life is out of your control. Managing what you can about your life, even if it’s simply what time you go to bed at night, can help you keep some balance. It can also help you fight off despair, helplessness, and other negative thoughts.
- Learn or discover new things. Take an adult education class, join a book club, or just travel somewhere new. Change really can do you good!
- Enjoy the beauty of nature or art. Studies show that simply walking through a garden can lower blood pressure and stress. Walking through a park or an art gallery works, too. You can also hike or just sit on a beach to lower your blood pressure.
So take time to take care of your emotional and mental health. It’s just as important as your physical health. And in the long run, it will improve your overall health. Because when you feel good, everything else takes care of itself.
Strategies for weight loss; 10 tips for success from the Mayo Clinic
When you’re planning to go somewhere, it’s good to have an idea of where “somewhere” is. The same is true for losing weight. As the experts at the Mayo Clinic wrote in a popular article a goal can make all the difference between success and failure. When we plan our weight-loss journeys, they tend to be much smoother roads to healthier lifestyles.
And while it’s fine to think big about getting smaller, it’s best to be honest about how you’ll get there. Losing 20 pounds in a week is probably not going to happen, at least not without risking your health. Besides, it’s a lot easier to win when you break things down into little steps, and a lot of little steps will get you where you want to go, too!
Most important? The more little battles you win, the less likely you are to give up on the war.
- Take It Personally. Think about your fitness level, health concerns, available time and motivation. Matching your goals to your reality puts you in better shape to win!
- Slow and Steady Is Better. Expect to lose about one to two pounds a week (0.5 to 1 kilogram) – that’s the healthy amount. To lose weight, you need to burn 500 to 1,000 calories more than you consume each day. So plan for that, and then work toward it.
- Enjoy the Trip. When you focus on the journey rather than the destination, things tend to go better. “Exercise five days a week” is a process goal; “weigh 145 pounds” is an outcome goal. Losing weight for good is about changing your processes – your daily behaviors and habits – and not about focusing on a magic number on the scale.
- The Long and Short. Short-term goals keep you engaged on a daily basis, but long-term goals motivate you over the long haul. Your short-term goals can become steps to reaching long-term goals. Because healthy, permanent weight loss can be a long process, your goals need to work in the long term.
- It’s All In the Details. When planning your goals, write down everything and go through all the details. When and where will you do it? How will you fit a walk into your day? What do you need to get started? What snacks can you cut out? Then track your progress to see if you’re meeting your goals.
- Pick A Date. Timing is everything. Choose a definite start date for your weight-loss program, and don’t put that date off for anything. Be sure to plan for things like work or school demands, vacations, or relationship problems. You may need to resolve some issues before starting.
- Start Small. It’s good to plan a series of small goals that build on each other instead of one big goal. If you bite off more than you can chew you’re more likely to give it up.
- Plan for Roadblocks. Weight often comes off a little faster in the first week or two, but after that things tend to slow down. At this point many people have what’s called a “setback.” But these are normal as you try to change your ways; in fact, everyone who makes life changes has setbacks. It can help a lot to look ahead for trouble spots – the holidays, a business trip, etc. – and think of ways to beat them.
- Measure Your Progress. Review your goals each week. Were you able to meet your goals successfully last week? Think about what worked and what didn’t. Make plans for how you will reach your goals both today and during the course of the week.
- Think, Rethink. Be willing to change your goals if you need to. Maybe you started small but are now ready for bigger things. Or maybe your life has changed, and you need to make things fit better. On the other hand, if you find you’re always scaling back, maybe you need to check your goal-setting again.