Are you stressed? According to the American Psychological Association, 47% of all Americans (and more than 50% of working adults) say that they are concerned with the amount of stress in their lives. I believe that stress is one of the fastest growing chronic conditions in America, and steps should be taken immediately if we are to avoid a cultural epidemic. This week, I want to share with you some of the things I have learned during my career as an online mental health therapist about the dangers of chronic stress and the steps you can take to combat it.
Different Types Of Stress
Acute stress and chronic stress are the two predominant types of stress we experience:
- Acute Stress is typically caused by an unpredictable or unusual event in our lives, such as giving a speech, being or almost being in a car accident, or racing against a deadline. This type of stress generally resolves as soon as the situation has passed.
- Chronic Stress is usually caused by an ongoing challenge or difficulty, such as battling chronic health conditions, mourning the loss of a loved one, coping with domestic abuse, or struggling with financial challenges. Because these events tend to go on for a long time, the stress people experience from these situations can span several months or even years.
Each type of stress presents its own health risks. Acute stress typically causes symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, stomach pain, irritability, anxiety, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and more. If managed properly, these types of symptoms can actually benefit the situation by making us more alert, more focused, and more likely to take steps to resolve the issue as soon as possible. These symptoms typically subside after the issue has been resolved and the stress is alleviated.
- Change your thought process. Thinking negatively only makes the situation worse. Next time you catch yourself thinking “I always mess up,” or “I can’t do this,” instead tell yourself that you’re doing the best you can and that you can always seek help if needed.
- Don’t expect to get it right the first time. Life is messy, and it’s okay to make mistakes. Cut yourself some slack – it’s unnecessary (and unrealistic) to expect perfection.
- Give yourself time to do the things you enjoy. Feeding your soul is crucial. Identify some of your favorite pastimes (watching movies, reading books, going for walks, etc) and give yourself a little time every day to enjoy them.
- Exercise often. Exercise releases endorphins and boosts our mood. It doesn’t have to be strenuous – even moderate exercise offers great physical and mental benefits.
- Identify the things you have no control over and let them go. There will always be things in life you can’t control, such as the weather and other people’s behavior. Accepting that you cannot affect these things will help you to be less personally affected by them.
- Be physically affectionate. Physical affection has been shown to be hugely beneficial when it comes to relieving stress. Make it a point to kiss your partner frequently and/or hug your close friends and family.
- Take deep breath. Deep breathing massages the organs, oxygenates the brain and muscles, and calms the mind. Try taking deep breaths next time you find yourself feeling stressed.
- Learn to delegate. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Delegating tasks can be a great way to lighten your load and reduce your stress level.