A Whole Year of Stress

Just when we thought we could get a handle on this year, 2020 continues to go up in flames. From the pandemic and natural disasters to strained relations and property damage, everything seems to wear down the mind to a breaking point. With so many losing their jobs and finances, it's hard to find any relief, but stressing over time about the weight of the world is a factor that can be dangerous for your health.

Stress in small amounts can be beneficial. Acute stress is a short term stress that happens for a short period, usually in response to a sudden event, and goes away just as quickly as it starts. For example, slamming on the brakes to avoid a crash, or being startled at a surprise party.

Stress that lasts over longer periods of time is called chronic stress. Any stress that lasts for weeks or months is considered chronic stress. You can become used to this stress if you're constantly on high alert. Your body releases hormones in response to stress, making your muscles tense, your pulse increase and your brain more alert. Short term this does not put too much strain on the body since it is only temporary and your body can return to a normal healthy physical state.

To combat Chronic Stress it is good to recognize the stressors and find the best way to combat these negative effects.

  • Recognize the things you can't change Accepting that you can't change certain things allows you to let go and not get upset. For instance, you cannot change the fact that you have to drive during rush hour. But you can look for ways to relax during your commute, such as listening to a podcast or book.
  • Avoid stressful situations. When you can, remove yourself from the source of stress. For example, if your family squabbles during the holidays, give yourself a breather and go out for a walk or drive.
  • Get exercise. Getting physical activity every day is one of the easiest and best ways to cope with stress. When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel good. It can also help you release built-up energy or frustration. Find something you enjoy, whether it is walking, cycling, softball, swimming, or dancing, and do it for at least 30 minutes on most days.
  • Change your outlook. Try to develop a more positive attitude toward challenges. You can do this by replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones. For example, rather than thinking, "Why does everything always go wrong?" change this thought to, "I can find a way to get through this." It may seem hard or silly at first, but with practice, you may find it helps turn your outlook around.
  • Do something you enjoy. When stress has you down, do something you enjoy to help pick you up. It could be as simple as reading a good book, listening to music, watching a favorite movie, or having dinner with a friend. Or, take up a new hobby or class. Whatever you choose, try to do at least one thing a day that's just for you.
  • Learn new ways to relax. Practicing relaxation techniques is a great way to handle daily stress. Relaxation techniques help slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. There are many types, from deep breathing and meditation to yoga and tai chi. Take a class, or try learning from books, videos, or online sources.
  • Connect with loved ones. Do not let stress get in the way of being social. Spending time with family and friends can help you feel better and forget about your stress. Confiding in a friend may also help you work out your problems.
  • Get enough sleep. Getting a good night's sleep can help you think more clearly and have more energy. This will make it easier to handle any problems that crop up. Aim for about 7 to 9 hours each night.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Eating healthy foods helps fuel your body and mind. Skip the high-sugar snack foods and load up on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy, and lean proteins.
  • Learn to say no. If your stress comes from taking on too much at home or work, learn to set limits. Ask others for help when you need it.
  • Sources:
    Mental Health
    Stress and Your Health
    Learn to Manage Stress
    Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

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