We all feel some measure of stress in our lives: We work too hard, make ourselves busy, worry about bills, never take vacations, etc. Stress has become its own industry, spawning self-help books and videos, supplements, massage chairs/wands/professionals/classes, vacation packages and the like. But there’s a reason: Stress truly does take a mental and physical toll if not addressed. Understanding stress can help you manage it more effectively.
- Types of stress. We generally deal with two kinds, acute and chronic. Acute stress comes on when we have a sudden reaction to a potential threat — what we know as the “fight or flight” response. In the moment, it can save our lives by keeping us from danger. However, when that becomes a regular occurrence, it becomes chronic stress, which can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD and other health problems.
- Physical effects. When the body never gets to its normal state due to stress, the strain takes its toll. Overwork, frequent large and small worries and lack of sleep force our bodies into a state of constant stress, suppressing the immune system and leaving us open to viral infections. Our systems become compromised, leading to digestive and other health problems. Chronic stress can also increase the chance of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Mental/emotional effects. Living in a constant “fight-or-flight” state can also take a mental toll. Our bodies attempt to send a calming hormone when we feel those panicked moments, but too much leads to low energy and depression. Studies in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) have discovered that mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, personality changes, depression and anxiety get worse with chronic stress.
- What can you do? Identify your stressors and what causes them. Use a stress journal to record what you’re feeling at the time of the stress and its trigger. Then do what you can to address it, perhaps cutting out certain unnecessary commitments and asking for help so you don’t have to do everything. On that note, build strong relationships so you can feel supported, either by someone helping you do your more difficult tasks or simply listening. Find out about yoga and relaxation poses that help to build up the immune system and allow your body to relax (and yes, there are apps for it!). Try to sleep seven to eight hours a night as much as possible, and fit exercise in, even if only ten minutes, to blow off steam.
Stress doesn’t have to be the constant in your life; start taking small steps today to lighten your load, and doing any or a combination of these can help you. Avoid the stress of job-searching by partnering with the specialized recruiters at PrideStaff Thousand Oaks!