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Stressed Out? Stress is Damaging Your Health and How to Chill Out

– Contributed content –

Woman in pain

(o5com, Flickr)

25 August 2018. Have you ever felt so stressed you could pop, only to have someone close to you say, “Just chill out?” Ha! If only it were that easy, but sadly apart from the enlightened Zen masters among us, we don’t get to control our mood and stress level at will. In fact, we have to practice activities that are known to reduce stress to get that relaxed and chilled out feeling. Activities that you can find out more about in the post below, along with some of the biggest problems chronic stress can wreak on the body.

We all experience stress at one time or another, but what damage is it causing in the long term?

The damage stress causes

Apart from the emotional fallout of stress which can include increased anxiety, irritability, and a sharp decrease in patience, there are some physical problems that it can cause as well. In particular, high levels of stress, over an extended period of time have been linked to a higher chance of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and even dementia.

Therefore, stress management isn’t just a matter of relieving the current suffering we are experiencing, but also essential for our long-term well-being. To that end, it’s time to fill your toolkit with stress management techniques. A topic that you can find out more about in the following section.

Exercise

One of the most straightforward ways to reduce the stress that you are feeling is moving your body. However, this is one that many of us have trouble with as sedentary jobs are so common.

Exercise as a method of stress relief is evidence-based, and works on multiple levels to help you deal with the physical and psychological symptoms of stress.

Physically moving your body produces endorphins, which are happy hormones that can help you take a more positive view of the situation you are in. Also moving the body requires that you take in a large amount of oxygenated air which also can have a positive effect on your mood. Then there is the action that movement has on the endocrine system in the body,  speeding things up and allowing any of the stress-related secretions like cortisol to be eliminated much quicker, therefore reducing their effect.

Of course, such effects do not include the advantage of taking a break from your problems and getting a sense of achievement for fulfilling a goal. Both of which can also be useful in combating stress and the negative mindset it can cause.

Meditation

Another strongly evidenced based technique for managing stress is meditation. There are many forms of meditation, but the one that gets the most coverage at the moment is non-denominal mindfulness. Mindfulness is a skill that anyone can learn and is drawn from the long Buddhist tradition of returning your attention to a single point of focus.

I say returning your attention because as anyone that practices this skill knows, the mind is often pulled along a certain track of thought, or to a particular sensation, or feeling. Therefore keeping it focused on one single thing constantly, be in the breath, the sensation of eating, or the action moving is impossible.

Instead, the goal of mindfulness is to notice this without judgment, and therefore not be carried along with it, and then return to your object of focus. Something that allows the meditator to create a space in between their thoughts and what they decide to do, and can help them to be less reactive to feelings of stress, as well as make wiser decisions moving forward.

Another critical benefit of the medication is that it is known to significantly alter brain waves, something you can learn more about by reading posts like Brainwaves & How They Affect our Lifestyle that you can access online.  In summary, it has been proved to foster delta waves which are associated with a sense of deep relaxation and healing that can help combat short-term instance of stress, as well as the effects of more chronic tension.

Therapy

Sometimes it isn’t the situation we are in that is causing our distress, but our reactions to it. In fact, we see examples of this every day, when someone we know has a particularly strong adverse response to something that we feel is insignificant. What this demonstrates is the way that we perceive a situation changes the way we react to it. Therefore, if we can change the way we see a problem, it then follows that we are able to change our level of stress surrounding it.

One effective way of doing this is to engage in some therapy and in particular CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is different to talk therapy in that it is less about going over situations that have distressed you in the past, and more about learning how to identify thinking problems or cognitive distortions shape the way you think and react to things.

Once you have weakened the mistaken thoughts around a particular situation, you will we able to identify with it less. Something that should result in a reduction of stress, and an increased ability to refocus on something that is of value to you instead.

Know how you recharge

Lastly, a technique that can be helpful in combating stress and the effect it has on the body is to understand your personality type. There are many ways of identifying which type of personality you are, with the most well known being the Myers-Briggs Scale. Essential the scale is divided into four categories with two options, with each person being typed as one or the other.

What is particularly relevant here is that the first category which is concerned with how you process information, recharge yourself, and recover from stress. The first option is E for extroverted, which means you enjoy spending time with others and need to interact with people to process information and deal with a stressful situation. The second option is I for introverted, which means that you need time alone to process information and de-stress.

Of course, if you know where you come on this scale, you can ensure that you get the right amount of time alone, or with company. Something that should have a significant effect on your ability to relax and deal with the many stresses that this life throws at us.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this post are the contributor’s and not Science & Enterprise. Readers are encouraged to consult their professional health care providers for solutions to their specific issues.

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