Which of these is stress?
You receive a promotion at work.
Your car has a flat tire.
You go to a fun party that lasts till 6:00 a.m.
Your dog gets sick.
Your new bedroom set is being delivered.
Your best friend and his wife come to stay at your house for a week.
You get a bad case of hay fever.
All of the above.
ALL OF THESE ARE STRESS.
If you are used to thinking that stress is something that makes you worry, you have the wrong idea of stress. Stress is many different kinds of things: happy things, sad things, allergic things, and physical things. Many people carry enormous stress loads and they do not even realize it!
What is Stress?
We are all familiar with the word “stress”. Stress is when you are worried about getting laid off your job, or worried about having enough money to pay your bills, or worried about your mother when the doctor says she may need an operation. In fact, to most of us, stress is synonymous with worry. If it is something that makes you worry, then it is stress.
Your body, however, has a much broader definition of stress. To your body, stress is synonymous with change. Anything that causes a change in your life causes stress. It doesn’t matter if it is a “good” change or a “bad” change, they are both stress. When you find your dream apartment and get ready to move, that is stress. If you break your leg, that is stress. Good or bad, if it is a change in your life, it is stress as far as your body is concerned.
Even imagined change is stress. (Imagining changes is what we call “worrying”.) If you fear that you will not have enough money to pay your rent, that is stress. If you worry that you may get fired, that is stress. If you think that you may receive a promotion at work, that is also stress (even though this would be a good change). Whether the event is good or bad, imagining changes in your life is stressful.
Anything that causes change in your daily routine is stressful.
Anything that causes change in your health is stressful.
Imagined changes are just as stressful as real changes.
Stress Affects Your Body and Brain
Stress causes problems with with the chemicals in your brain. When life is smooth, your brain is able to produce enough calming chemicals, such as serotonin, to keep up with normal levels of stress, demands, and expectations. But when too much stress is placed on the brain, it begins to fall behind in its ability to cope. As the stress continues, some of the calming chemicals may begin to fail. Important nerve centers then become distressed. You enter a state of brain chemical imbalance known as — Overstress.
Overstress makes people feel terrible. With stress overwhelming the brain, a person feels “overwhelmed” by life. People complain of being tired, unable to fall asleep or to obtain a restful night’s sleep. They have plagues of aches and pains, lack of energy, lack of enjoyment of life. They feel depressed, anxious, or just unable to cope with life.
Stress Affects Your Looks
From the above description, you can probably imagine that overstress can affect your looks. When you cant sleep, you look tired. When you have aches and pains, you look (and feel) unhappy. When you have no energy, you cant participate in life with your usual smile and sparkle. Stress can also cause skin rashes and stomach problems, which will also affect how you look.
How to Combat Stress
Breathing exercises are a wonderfully effective way to reduce stress, regulate mood, and feel energized. One way to promote deeper breathing and better health is by exhaling completely. Try it: take a deep breath, let it out effortlessly, and then squeeze out a little more. Doing this regularly will help build up the muscles between your ribs, and your exhalations will naturally become deeper and longer. Start by practicing this exhalation exercise consciously, and eventually it will become a healthy, unconscious habit.
For many people, exercise is a main method of reducing stress and promoting relaxation. One of the benefits of regular aerobic exercise is its moderating effect on emotions, both long-term and short-term. If you feel angry or upset, a brisk walk or run or a half hour of lifting weights will often put you back in a good mood. While exercise is a great way to burn up excess energy and dissipate tension, it does not necessarily teach you how to process stress differently, and is best used as a complement to another technique, such as breathing, visualization or yoga, for instance. Yoga is an excellent promoter of relaxation as well as a good form of non-aerobic body conditioning. It perfectly complements aerobic exercise.
Did you know pessimism has been linked to a higher risk of dying before age 65? On the other hand, expressing positive emotions, such as optimism, is associated with a variety of health benefits: lowered production of the stress hormone cortisol, better immune function, and reduced risk of chronic diseases.
If you are stressed-out or anxious, and tend to become negative when in this state of mind, try the following steps:
Take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting adequate sleep.
Express your emotional reactions honestly so you can effectively deal with what’s bothering you.
Confide in someone – your mate, a good friend or a trusted relative.
View the cup as half full instead of half empty.