If there is something that is constant throughout every stage of life, it is the presence of stress. When you were a child, you had exams and peer pressure to worry about. As you enter your adult years, work and office politics can wear you down. Even upon retirement, there’s always the worry concerning your health and retirement finances.
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Stress, it seems, is ubiquitous in life. We know that stress can, in fact, motivate us to try harder and be better. It is difficult to imagine an Olympic gold medalist who hasn’t experienced significant stress in their journey onto the victory podium. However, if you mismanage your stress levels, you could find yourself in bad shape, both physically and mentally.
What Is Stress?
The American Psychological Association provides a simple definition of stress that is easy for all to grasp. It defines stress as “a normal reaction to everyday pressures, but can become unhealthy when it upsets your day-to-day functioning.” It also identified Covid-19 as a major cause of stress among Americans in 2021.
Some have sought to differentiate normal, everyday stress from what is termed “toxic stress.” Among the symptoms of toxic stress are feelings of being overwhelmed, frustrated, and anxious. According to Harvard University, toxic stress can weaken the architecture of the brain. This makes it devastatingly harmful to both children and adults alike.
Stress can indeed have profound effects on the body. According to the Mental Health Foundation, excessive stress can contribute to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ulcers, and cardiovascular disease. It can also negatively affect your memory, sleep, eating habits, and desire to exercise.
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What Habits Reduce Stress?
How Do I Reduce Stress? Fortunately, stress does not have to overwhelm you or negatively impact your quality of life. There are easy, science-backed methods of reducing stress that are tried and tested. One example is meditation. According to the mental health charity Headspace, “numerous studies have shown that meditation is an effective stress-management tool.” This is because it ultimately reprogrammed the brain to extend its capacity to manage stress when practiced consistently.
Another powerful tool to reduce stress is exercise. Scientists have discovered that exercise releases endorphin, which is your brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitter. In addition, the Mayo Clinic describes exercise as “meditation in motion.” This is because exercise allows you to focus on your body in the present moment. This has the effect of clearing your mind of the day’s worries.
Lastly, you can always talk to a friend or family member. Remember the saying: “a burden shared is a burden halved.” This approach requires you to be open and vulnerable, but you will ultimately feel better for it.
Living Free From Stress
Stress is real and can result in deadly consequences if not managed in a healthy way. The good news is that you can turn things around and live a life that is joyful and free from stress. Just remember to invest in looking after yourself and seek help when necessary. Through persistent effort, you will find yourself better and better at managing the stresses of life. You might even be the precious friend or family member that someone turns to for advice in times of need!
- American Psychological Association (2021). Stress relief is within reach.
- Center on the Developing Child Harvard University (2021). A guide to toxic stress.
- Mental Health Foundation (2021). Stress.
- Headspace (2021). Meditation for stress.
- Mayo Clinic (2020). Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress.