What is the #1 Killer?
You guessed it… It is STRESS. Stress Kills. We’ve heard it before. But how does stress kill? We live in stressful times and this stress constantly creeps into our lives. Everyday challenges that bring us tension and dissatisfaction, eventually can bring about problems such as anxiety, depression, and even stress-related diseases, like heart disease.
How could stress be a leading factor to high blood pressure, heart attack, anxiety or depression you may ask? How does stress kill? Lifetime exposure to chronic psychological stress is associated with elevated inflammation in the heart. When you have high cortisol levels; the stress hormone – means that you never get to relax. Physically, your body is “turned on” all the time. Even feeling frustrated daily, like being stuck in a traffic jam or an unpleasant confrontation with your partner, friend or a child, can keep that stress level elevated.
Stress can also be spurred by money issues or by a sudden health scare. This can all take a toll — physical, mental and emotional health. Example: gut dysfunctions, IBS, weight gain, metabolic disturbance, insulin resistance, mood and sleep disorders, immune weakness, and sugar cravings. Stress throws your normal hormone balance completely out of whack – which is even worse than a bad diet.
Our immune system can be over-activated and lead to autoimmune diseases also. Experiencing long standing stress has been linked to PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder and other anxiety disorders too. In addition, there are other harmful behaviors ( like smoking, substance abuse) which increase this inflammatory process. ( inflammatory cytokines ) With pre-existing cardiovascular disease and the additional higher inflammation is associated with greater risk of death and other forms of complications.
Stress is a fact of life. But you determine how it affects your life. You can counteract the damaging effects of stress by calling upon your body’s vast potential for self-healing. The only way to remove the worst of the stressors is to expose the nervous system to deep rest. We know that the deep rest we gain through sleep is refreshing, but it is clearly not enough to prevent the loss of creativity, intelligence, and joy that seems to plague many of us as we grow older.
In the waking state of consciousness our minds are busy solving problems. In contrast, in the dreaming and deep sleep are two states in which the body and mind are in rest and repair mode to refresh themselves in preparation for the next day’s activity. This deep rest allows our body to repair the damage caused by the stresses we accumulate from our daily living.
The Elimination of Stress
By learning how to control the mind, you also learn how to manage your stress levels more effectively. Learning about stress management will help you explore strategies to change the way you look at things. You’ll find how to challenge negative thoughts and avoid jumping to conclusions. Have you ever heard about the power of visualization and meditation, but don’t know where to start? Are you ready to ease your tension and once again enjoy your peace of mind?
Become an Optimist
Look at the situation from an optimistic point of view. Can you find the silver lining? Even if you can’t find it immediately as a” negative” situation arise, talk with friends about and try to look at it from a different perspective.
Look at the Bigger Picture
Gain perspective about the situation by thinking BIG.
Will this truly matter in the long-term?
What is the worst possible thing that could happen?
Is this issue really as bad as it seems?
How will I look back upon this situation in 5 to 10 years?
Adjusting Your Standards
Are your standards simply too high or too rigid? Are you the person who wants to make sure all things are perfect? Or has to be in control about absolutely everything? If you are one of these people, then maybe you should think about adjusting your standards and giving yourself a break every now and then. So loosen up and quit stressing over perfection or control. How could this situation be perceived from a different angle? How would Gandhi or one of your role model react or think in this situation … and what would they do about it?
Meditate and Visualize
Both meditation and visualization is known to be very beneficial for easing stress and centering the mind. Read about the practices in books and magazines about the many different types of meditation and visualization. Find the one that would suit your personality best and practice it daily. It could be one of the best decisions you can make.
Anger and feeling overwhelmed are two emotions that tend to build a lot of negative stress. To gain control over these emotions the first step is to recognize them when they pop into your mind, and say it out loud – “ I feel angry” or “ I feel stressed” or “ I feel overwhelmed”. It is important to recognize that feelings they are NOT you. They are only feelings and they constantly change. Now, simply tell yourself “ I do not want to feel these negative feelings anymore and replace these feeling by thinking about happy and positive things in your life and feeling grateful for them. Smile! And your emotional state will follow your physical state.
Acceptance through Forgiveness
Are you holding bitter feelings towards other people? Sometimes all it takes is to forgive and forget and move on. A technique called Sedona method could be a helpful tool to use in these type of situations.
The Stress-Less Body Guide
Do you pay attention what your body is telling you? When feeling stressed it is our body that suffers the most from the consequences of the associated destructive emotions. As a result our body responds in negative ways that could potentially lead to health concerns in the future. It is paramount to read our bodily signs and act accordingly.
Laughter is the best medicine
The benefits of laughter have been widely documented. Laughter offsets the impact of mental stress, promotes good health, reduces pain, connects people emotionally and assists with reducing the effects that stress brings to the body.
Learn to laugh at yourself, watch comedies, laugh with your friends, and if nothing else works, simply faking laughter has also show to have tremendous value. Remember the emotional follows the physical. The great thing about laughter is that the effect on lowering your stress levels are instantaneous.
Massage is a powerful tool reducing stress and relieving built up muscle tension. It helps you relax and take charge of your overall health and well-being. Most of us store our tension in specific areas in our body. Most common areas are the scalp, neck, back, buttocks and jaw. A professional massage therapist will be able to identify and ease the pain and the built up tension in these areas, which will lead to a greater sense of well-being, more energy and better quality of sleep. In Home Massage has longer lasting effects due to the fact that there is no driving involved and that you relax in the comfort of your own surroundings.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
When feeling anxious or stressed this technique will help you bring attention to the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. This involves progressively relaxing every muscle in your body one muscle at a time up until your entire body is completely at ease. Best results come if this exercise is practiced while lying down, however, it can be done also in a seated position.
One method of progressive muscle relaxation is to start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. You can also start with your neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat. Taking 5 to 10 minutes to focus on this exercise which can be done several times per day. It will help you successfully manage your stress levels. This technique also helps to reduce headaches, as well as improve sleep.
Napping has been scientifically proven to ease stress and promote health and well-being. However, it is important not to overdo it. Keep your naps to about 20 to 25 minutes and no longer. Uninterrupted night sleep brings harmony to the body and mind. Conversely, interrupted sleep can stress the body, leaving it drained and feeling fatigued throughout the day.
Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever and gets your mind off of a stressful circumstance. Being active and participating in sports activities will help you let go of of feelings of frustration. Exercise boosts your feel-good hormones which results having more energy and the feeling of optimism. It can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do and distract you from daily worries. It improves your mood, increase self-confidence and it can also lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety and it gives you an opportunity to meet and interact with new people. Your overall health will thank you for it.
More often than not, the only reason we tend to become stressed and overwhelmed is because of our inability to say NO to others. It is important to realize that it is not selfish, to be thinking about your needs especially if you are in a situation that is stressing you. Other people do not always know or understand your circumstances. The solution is to simply say, NO! Be polite and upfront by saying that you love and care about these people and that you would like to help them, however you currently have too much on your plate and unfortunately wouldn’t be able to give them your full effort and commitment. That’s it. Leave it at that and feel good about yourself that you have taken control.
Noise = Stress Just because we are used to noise doesn’t mean the noise doesn’t affect us. Noise is a major stressor. Just like any other stressor it rises the “stress hormone” cortisol. The stress response is always turned on when you’re exposed to noise pollution daily, so the noise turns into a chronic stressor. While trying to work or relax, noise creates a certain amount of stress and uneasiness within the body. Simply develop a plan of action to combat these potential distractions and counteract them before they get out of hand and make you sick.
Simplify Your Life
We tend to stress when our lives become over-complicated. The solution for this is to simply begin today by simplifying your life. Recognize what makes you feel overwhelmed. Let go of responsibilities and commitments that are no longer necessary. Clean out your house and all the things that you no longer need or require. And finally let go of relationships and acquaintances that are over complicating your life.
Spending time in nature not only makes us feel better emotionally but it also contributes to our overall physical well-being. Go out and spend time in nature at every possible opportunity; whether it is a weekend getaway or an evening walk around the block or simply taking a 10 minute walk at lunch-break. Experience the beauty daily, that resides in every flower, insect and tree. Take time to breathe in and recognize the peaceful harmony of that environment. Become a part of what you see and allow all your stress to simply diminish.
Practicing meditation is a great way to stay centred when your stress levels are trying to send your anxiety spiralling out of control. You can think of meditation as brain training. Like you wouldn’t go to the gym and expect results immediately, right? In the same way, you cannot expect that you will sit down to meditate and you will feel an overwhelming bliss immediately.
Begin by keeping it simple: focus on your breath by inhaling for six seconds and exhaling for six seconds, or breathing in while thinking of the word “let” and exhaling thinking of the word “go” or choose a word that brings you peace and meaningful to you. If you have limited time you can start with just two minutes a day for 30 days.
Meditation apps such as Headspace and Calm can also be helpful to your practice on your journey of creating a new habit. Practicing meditation will let you become less attached to thoughts and lessen the internal chatter and clutter.
If you want to take your newly discovered mindfulness to a new level, consider keeping a happiness diary. Taking time to notice when you feel joy and to jot it down it can help keep things in perspective. This technique is highly effective and can increase feelings of satisfaction.
Play with Children and Pets
One of the ways to completely immerse yourself is to play with small children and pets. There is something amazing about the younger generation that brings splendid joy to the old and wise. Once you start thinking like a small child or a playful animal you begin to truly understand how trivial the situations of your stress actually are.
Helping another person, a random act of kindness or volunteering on a regular basis can help us feel much more relaxed and at peace with our own circumstances. Try it sometime, it can work wonders.
Paying attention, being aware to the signals of your body is the most accurate way knowing what is stressing you. Managing stress is as much about what to do as it is about what not to do. Here are some things to keep in mind that may aggravate your levels of stress:
Avoid Angry & Stressful People
This doesn’t really require much explanation. If someone is stressing you or making you feel anxious, simply avoid them. If you can’t avoid them because you live or work together, than take time to make a list of solutions you can implement. You always have options to choose from. Example; you can compromise, reframe from the situation, change your perspective, forgive, alter your standards, or visit a support group or psychiatrist and get help.
Mainstream toxins such as cigarette, alcohol and drugs are known to raise stress long-term even though in the short-term they tend to settle and relax the body. Remember that stress has everything to do with your state-of-mind and nothing to do with what is happening in your present circumstance. Follow these guidelines and integrate them into your daily life so you can achieve peace and harmony for the rest of your life.
I hope you enjoyed this guide, and if you have any further thoughts and suggestions about this topic, please feel free to comment below.
To your good health!