When your car skids on an icy road, your body goes on full alert, ready for action. This stress response can save your life because all your faculties are at their highest pitch and your energies are directed toward controlling the car. But more often, stress does not call for a physical response. For example, when you have an argument with a friend, your body may become charged up but there is no physical outlet for your energies. When this happens repeatedly, stress builds, adversely affecting your health.
Things that cause stress – called stressors – do not affect everyone in the same way. Much depends on how we perceive and cope with trouble. If every problem is considered a catastrophe, the level of stress is greater. You should think about your problems in the coolest way you can.
It is possible to have too little stress. We work better with a certain level of stimulation. If the level is too low, we get bored.
Stress is a normal part of life and usually comes from everyday occurrences. Eliminate as many sources of stress as you can. For example, if crowds bother you, go to the supermarket when you know the lines won’t be long. Try renting videotapes rather than going to crowded movie theaters.
Clear up the clutter in your life by giving away or throwing away the things that get in your way. A garage sale is one effective way to do this.
If you are always running late, sit down with a pencil and paper and see how you are actually allotting your time. Say it takes 40 minutes to get to work. Are you leaving your house on time? You may be able to solve the problem (and de-stress your life a bit) just by being realistic.
If you can’t find the time for all the activities that are important to you, maybe you are trying to do too much. Again, make a list of what you do during the day and how much time each activity takes. Then cut back.
Avoid predictably stressful situations. If a certain sport or game makes you tense (whether it’s tennis or bridge), decline the invitation to play. After all, the point of these activities is to have a good time. If you know you won’t, there’s no reason to play.
If you can’t remove the stress, remove yourself. Slip away once in a while for some private time. These quiet moments may give you a fresh perspective on your problems.
Avoid stressful people. For example, if you don’t get along with your father-in-law but you don’t want to make an issue of it, invite other in-laws at the same time you invite him. Having other people around will help absorb some of the pressure you would normally feel.
Competing with others, whether in accomplishments, appearance, or possessions, is an avoidable source of stress. You might know people who do all they can to provoke envy in others. While it may seem easy to say you should be satisfied with what you have, it’s the truth. Stress from this kind of jealousy is self-inflicted.
Labor saving devices, such as cellular phones or computer hookups, often encourage us to cram too many activities into each day. Before you buy new equipment, be sure that it will really improve your life. Be aware that taking care of equipment and getting it repaired can be stressful. Try doing only one thing at a time. For example, when you’re riding your exercise bike, you don’t also have to listen to the radio or watch television.
Remember, sometimes it’s okay to do nothing.
If you suffer from insomnia, headaches, recurring colds, or stomach upsets, consider whether stress is part of the problem. Being chronically angry, frustrated, or apprehensive can deplete your physical resources.
If you feel that stress (or anything else) is getting the better of you, seek professional help – a doctor or therapist. Early signs of excess stress are loss of a sense of wellbeing and reluctance to get up in the morning to face another day.