Stress Less!

Written By Laura Allen, President of Sales & Marketing, AHC Ventures, Inc on March 31, 2022

Stressed out woman

 

April is National Stress Awareness Month. Is there anyone that doesn't have stress? I doubt it. Even babies can experience stress, according to doctors, starting at around 3-5 months of age. Kids get stressed, teenagers get stressed, and adults of all ages get stressed.

It seems that anything and everything can cause it. Change, even when it's a good change, can cause stress. Things like buying a new house, getting a promotion, or planning a wedding are stressful. All of those are happy events, but that doesn't mean there's no stress involved. Of course, things that are sad and/or traumatic cause stress too, like illness (our own or a loved one's), a death of someone close to you, or a divorce. According to behavioral health experts, the top three causes of stress are money, work, and poor health. 

Let's talk about health, because stress is directly related to it. Good health is something money can't buy. You may have enough money that you don't have to stress about paying the mortgage, sending your kids to college, or taking a luxurious vacation, but in the end, it's not a guarantee of good health. Terminal illness strikes the rich as well as the poor. Chronic illness, depression and/or anxiety, or an addiction such as alcoholism, doesn't discriminate between the rich and the poor. We stress over things in our personal lives, and that's to be expected. But we also stress over things we can't control, like the price of gas, politics, war in another country, the plumber who shows up three hours after they said they would, or our neighbor's dog barking. 

It's best if we choose what we're going to allow ourselves to stress over. Try this exercise: if you notice you're feeling stressed about something, ask yourself these questions:

Is it really my problem?  You don't have to stress about things that are not your problem. You can be sympathetic to friends or family members who are going through a bad time, and give them a listening ear, but unless it is a problem you can (and want to) directly help them with, it isn't your problem. You stressing over someone else's problem is not going to help them in any way. If it isn't your problem to deal with, take a deep breath and let it go.

Do I have any control over the situation? We don't have any control over the war in Ukraine. We don't have any control over the grocery store being out of crackers. We don't have any control over inflation, or whether or not the president does something we don't like, or the fact that the dentist got sick and had to reschedule your root canal (were you really looking forward to that, anyway?). If you don't have any control over a situation, take a deep breath and let it go. 

Will it make a difference a year from now? If something is so major that it will make a difference in your life a year from now, by all means, allow yourself to feel the stress, the anger, the sadness, or whatever emotions are attached to it. Have a good cry and wallow in self-pity if you need to. But if it is something that will make absolutely no difference in your life a year from now, then take a deep breath and let it go. Dealing with a rude cashier at the store, or your waiter bringing you the wrong entree, is not going to make one flip a year from now, so don't let it raise your blood pressure. 

Stress causes many health problems and exacerbates others. Chronic stress is a major contributor to heart disease. People with chronic heart problems need to avoid acute stress. People who suffer from asthma may find their attacks worsen when stressed. Obesity may be related to stress. Stress causes higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which has been blamed for storing more fat in the abdominal area. Stress is considered one of the major contributors to headaches, including migraines. Stress is also a common factor in many gastrointestinal issues, including ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. 

Assuredly, people who are suffering from a life-changing or life-threatening illness are under stress, and so are their caregivers. That's quite understandable. There are times in our lives when we're going to have stress we can't avoid. None of us were prepared for the COVID pandemic and everything that came with it, such as job shutdowns, working from home, dealing with childcare problems, home schooling, changing finances, grocery store shortages...It's been a stressful time for everyone. Even so, there are things we can do to help ourselves when something happens. 

 

Self-care shouldn't be thought of as an indulgence; it should be a part of our routine! To some people, self-care may be sitting in the recliner with a cup of tea and reading a good book. Or going to bed early. Or going out to walk a couple of miles. It's whatever it is to you. Sometimes, it's just saying "no" to something you don't want to do, or that you realistically don't have time to do. Don't feel guilty about it if you don't have time to make 12 dozen cupcakes for the bakesale. Relax! Take a bubble bath. Meditate. Practice yoga. Get a massage! Meet a friend you haven't seen lately at an outdoor cafe, have coffee, and catch up. Go to a movie by yourself. Go fishing. Do SOMETHING for yourself. Put self-care on your calendar with the same diligence you would put a business appointment or doctor appointment on your calendar. 

Compartmentalize your stress. Is it situational? Is it chronic? If it's due to a temporary situation, like the stress of moving, roll with it, secure in the thought that it will be resolved soon. If it's a long-term situation, don't give up. Seek help if you need it. There is online counseling available 24/7 at a reasonable cost. If you're a caregiver, get someone to relieve you for a few hours on a regular basis. There is almost always a solution if we look for it. Cultivate positive emotions. Read a self-help book. Listen to music that makes you feel good. Even watching a comedy show and laughing for a few minutes can help defuse the stress you're feeling. Take a nature break. Walk outside, look at the sky, listen to the birds sing. Sit in the sunshine for a few minutes, breathe deeply, and clear your mind. Remember, whatever is happening, that this too shall pass. 

The truth is that stress doesn't come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances.

~ Andrew J. Bernstein

 


Posted In: Stress Management General Self-Care