If there’s one thing that most us can relate to, it’s stress. Our everyday lives are hectic and chaotic, to say the least. Unfortunately, everyday stress does more than affect our mood or ability to focus — it also threatens our health.
Stress has a clear connection to obesity, heart disease, and mental health issues, which makes effective stress management critical.
Where do you even start? If you are stressed about bills, your relationship, or even your health, it’s time to take charge. You can manage everyday stress — it’s just a matter of gaining control over your thoughts, lifestyle, emotions, and reactions.
Before we focus on an effective solution, it’s important to gain motivation — because stress is dangerous.
Why minimize stress?
On top of the possible negative effects in terms of hindered relationships and employment issues, everyday stress is harmful, period. We feel stress based on our physical and mental well-being, but how does prolonged exposure to stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, affect our health?
- It damages the brain. When experiencing high levels of stress, the part of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and overall mental health becomes damaged. A news release from Stanford University stated that based on an article published in the journal Science, it’s been found that long-term stress and stress-related hormones can actually shrink the hippocampus.
- It reduces immune function. Short-term stress is not only normal, but can actually be beneficial. However, when stress is experienced long term, individuals who would otherwise be healthy may suffer from weakened immune function. Inflammation throughout the body begins to increase, placing us at risk for a wide range of health complications.
- It decreases our ability to detoxify. Stress not only hinders our ability to break down fat — potentially resulting in weight gain — it also reduces our ability to detoxify the body. Unfortunately, stress often causes people to reach for high-fat and high-sugar foods, increasing weight gain and toxin levels further.
These are just some of the ways in which stress threatens our health. Of course, cardiovascular health is a significant area of concern, as chronic stress can lead to both hypertension and heart disease. From messing with bone health to the dysregulation of sex hormones, everyday stress will wreak havoc on our health.
A practical and easy solution to everyday stress
We all face different stressors, and although the causes of everyday stress are unique, the effects on human health are the same. If stress management was that simple, none of us would be stressed, right?
The truth is, reducing everyday stress is simple, we’re the ones who make it so complicated. The most effective solution regarding high levels of stress starts with awareness. When we’re aware of what makes us feel stressed, we can apply both rational and positive thinking to improve our circumstances.
Changing perspective is the key to stress management. Remember, various situations, such as a looming deadline or a silly fight with a spouse, aren’t necessarily stressful in their own right. It is our perception of these events that creates feelings of stress.
A great way to change perspective, and maybe even our expectations, is to imagine a scale ranging from one to ten. Of course, ten would relate to the worst reality we can imagine — like living in a war zone or the loss of a child. A nine may be a life-threatening cancer diagnosis, while a six could be losing a job. The point here is, everyday stress often tends to be in the range of one to two.
When you think about it, we stress out over some of the silliest things. We have the power to change our attitudes and the way in which we perceive stressful events.
If you are suffering from severe anxiety or high stress levels on a daily basis, try something new — meditate.
Over the past several years, the link between meditation and positive brain health has grown stronger. Within one study, published in Psychiatry Research, it was found that eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction actually changed the structure of participants’ brains.
The researchers who ran the study found that with meditation, brain cell volume in the amygdala decreased. The amygdala is responsible for stress, anxiety, and fear. These changes were also reflected in the participants’ self-reports regarding stress levels. You can practice mindfulness anywhere — benefiting both your body and mind.
You do not need to become a prisoner to everyday stress. Make a conscious decision to work towards positive mental health today. We cannot always change the hectic world around us, but we can control the ways in which we react. Truly becoming aware of key stressors is the first step towards long-term positive change.
—The Alternative Daily