Learning how to deal with stress is vital to our well-being and no one has yet found a miracle cure. To be alive is to know hair-pulling stress, in all its many forms and stress is as individual as we have fingerprints.
Stress is Stress at Every Age
Our great-grandparents had to deal with lighting the fire to cook a meal, hitch up the horses to the buggy to go to town, feed the chickens, milk the cows, churn the butter and grow all their vegetables. Occasionally chatting with the neighbours was an enjoyable luxury.
Was that more stressful than dealing with the stress of the intricacies of technology and modern living in the era of knowledge explosion? Why can’t the tech companies put their heads together and supply the world with something as simple as just one style of credit-card processor. Every shop you go to has a different place to put the card, though now your mobile has become your ‘wallet’. What happens when your phone accidentally isn’t charged, or you lose your phone?
Life is like climbing a mountain range with its numerous peaks and valleys. We all love the mountain tops, but they require a long climb, and the real growing is done in the valleys. The deeper the valley the greater the learning and potential growth.
Our life is full of stress and how to deal with stress is like dealing with the wriggly arms of an octopus. Stress is caused by road rage, which channel to watch on television, how to deal with the myriad of emails, and the ever-increasing demand of stretching the finances. Standing in a supermarket there is stress in which product to choose from among the myriad of choices and how to keep inside the budget. That’s not even touching on dealing with the major events that cause stress:
- The death of a loved one
- Divorce and the divided family
- Moving house
- Diagnosis of a major illness or injury
- Job loss
- Stretching the budget
- Awkward relationships
- The stress of failure and making mistakes.
By now, you will no doubt be feeling stressed and wonder why you are even reading this. So, let’s move on to recognizing symptoms of stress, and how to navigate your way through dealing with the stress of being alive in today’s world.
Common Signs of Stress
The most common signs of stress can cause you to feel:
- Irritable, angry, impatient or wound up
- Over-burdened and overwhelmed
- Anxious, nervous or afraid
- Your thoughts race at a million miles an hour and you can’t switch them off
- You are unable to enjoy yourself
- Depressed or constantly anxious
- Uninterested in life
- Feeling unaccepted
- You’ve lost your sense of humour.
Any, or all of the above are an urgent ‘STOP’ sign. Time to take a check on who you are and what you are about.
What is Stress?
We need to know the ‘what’ before we can discover the ‘how’. In the simplest terms, stress is experiencing emotional or physical tension. It is something we can experience dozens of times a day in a trillion different ways. Stress can be your body’s reaction to when you are faced with a challenge, or another demand is made on you. We frequently create our own stress, by the pressure we put on ourselves.
Stress can be the result of any event, or memory of that event, or thoughts that make you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. While stress can be a killer in every sense of the word, it can also be a life saver. Stress in short bursts, can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger, or coerces you into meeting a deadline.
Communication plays a major role in lowering stress. Talk things out with a trusted friend, or physician. Face the cause of the stress and where possible develop open communication. I look back on different situations and wish I had had the courage to open up communication in order to solve the stress. Hindsight is always twenty/twenty vision! That is why we need to encourage one another and learn to be a good listener. There is always another ‘game behind the game’.
Dealing With Stress
We need to recognize the things that cause us stress, remembering it comes in all shapes and sizes. It can simply be ‘did you remember to turn the air conditioner off,’ to ‘whether or not you will succeed in the job interview’ or ‘will your peers accept you?’.
Where possible find a solution to the cause of your stress. It can be as simple as stop worrying about something, or what people think of you. A lot of our stress comes from us being too hard and judgmental on ourselves. Animals and pets can help us deal with stress. If you don’t have a pet, consider getting one or visit someone else’s. Just stroking or patting an animal can help soothe your stress levels.
Long term extreme stress takes your health and ‘band-aid’ cures are not the answer. Stress becomes a cancer and to retain, or regain a healthy life, you need to find ways to deal with the causes. In life we collect a lot of junk, mentally and physically. There used to be a practice of ‘Spring Cleaning’. We all need to regularly do some emotional spring cleaning.
Life Changing Events
We all have life-changing, traumatic events at some point. Some people have more than their share. These events need to be talked out of your system and this may take seeking professional help.
Many of us have areas in our lives that are like a ‘closed door’. When something, or someone causes us to ‘open’ that door, the stress of that traumatic event becomes as real as it was at the time it first happened. You can’t undo what took place, but you can reach a place of healing.
A competent professional will guide you through the roads leading to the place where you can move on, though that process may be inch by painful inch. As human beings we are fearfully and wonderfully made and as such we have enormous internal healing ability, if we will just let the traumas go and not constantly berate ourselves.
Sometimes that door can be opened a little in a simple conversation, with someone who is willing to be a listener. Taking time out to encourage, or simply listen to others is never time wasted. Life is all about learning from our experiences and having the courage to grow on. That way we become wells of a wealth of understanding and can inspire others as they travel along life’s rocky road.
Check List for Dealing With Stress
- Be active.
- Laugh more often. A toddler laughs up to 300 times a day, but an adult only 17 times a day. When did we lose our sense of humour? Sure, life has its solemn times, but this needs to be balanced with learning to laugh at yourself and there is tremendous power in the healing hand of laughter.
- You have a right to be yourself and there are times you need to assert yourself. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but that doesn’t mean we become a doormat for everyone else or accept their abuse.
- Take time to unwind. Relax, relax, and relax.
- Ensure you keep hydrated.
- Meditate on something that brings you peace of mind.
- Connect with others and form quality friendships that uplift you, not drag you down. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends.
- Have variety in your life – dull routine makes you a very boring and bored person.
- Some people find keeping a journal is a good way to destress.
- Recognize when your stress levels reach beyond these simple measures and you need to seek professional assistance.
Our stress levels change as age and our circumstances change. Studies show that younger people have high stress levels related to the pressure to succeed, with 60% of 18-24-year-olds and 41% of 25-34-year-olds are under higher stress, compared to 17% of 45-54s and finally 6% of over 55s. Other studies show that there is an increase in the stress levels until the age of 40, after which it starts reducing.
Dealing with stress isn’t easy to manage at any age, but younger people may seem more capable of dealing with it. It is up to you find the real you and find contentment by adopting a positive attitude towards a life and do what you love doing. It’s not about the destination, but the journey itself. ‘Are we there yet?’
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