Today, someone asked me if I was stressed. This caused me to stop and think for a moment, do I have stress? I associate stress with major life events; school, exams, money problems, job hunting, breakups and anything else equally disruptive. Since I thankfully am not dealing with any of these things at the moment, how could I possibly be stressed? But yet, I still wanted to answer yes to this question and wasn’t quite sure why. It is possible that we live in a world that is so chronically stressed out that we don’t even notice?
Stress is the body’s reaction to any change. The change can result in physical, mental, or emotional responses. Stress isn’t always negative; it helps keep us alert and ready for a challenge. Stress becomes a problem when a person faces continual stressors without a chance to relax. This may result in tension, fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain and problems sleeping.
Did you know that stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually and is considered a workplace hazard.
Muscle tension is a result of chronic stress and causes the body to stay in a state of guardedness, as in your body is literally on guard anticipating something bad to happen! One way of reducing tension is by doing progressive muscle relaxation exercises. It is simple, and I feel it works. Start by lying in bed, play some music and turn down the lights, whatever helps you relax. Begin with your feet, clench your toes, hold for 5 seconds and relax, now move to your ankles, calves, quads, you get the idea. Keep doing this until you get all the way to your head. Relax your face, let your jaw go slack, and take some deep breaths through your nose. Doing this exercise may help people sleep better and reduce overall stress and tension in the body.
Next, deep breathing. It is as simple as it sounds, so I’m just going to skip right into lifestyle changes.
Making changes in your life, big and small, can have a large impact on stress level and overall well being. The first step to reducing life stress is to identify your stressors. Is it your job? Friends? Spouse? Busy schedule? Lack of sleep? Whatever your stressors are, write them down. Now brainstorm ways that you can make changes (regardless how small!) to decrease stress in each of the areas identified.
Some stressors can’t be changed. Although it would be nice to get up and walk away from a high-stress job, unfortunately, most people have bills to pay making this is difficulty option. But sometimes, stressors can be altered or adapted. For example, you may have a friend who causes you to feel particularly on edge, try spending less time with this person for a while, and you may notice a positive effect on your overall mood.
Don’t forget that small changes can make a big difference. Exercise is a proven stress reducer, it releases mood-enhancing endorphins and promotes relaxation. If you are one, who has difficulty sleeping due to pent up nervous energy from a rough day at work perhaps a short 10-minute workout when you get home may help. My 10 minute a day online training program is perfect for this. If you find yourself overrun with household tasks, try outsourcing or delegating to a family member to take a few things off your plate. Whatever changes you can make to decrease your stress level, do them now and your body (and mind) will thank you later.
In fitness and good health,