The single biggest cause of ill health is an inappropriate response to stress. Studies have shown that the major threat in modern life is being killed by our own defence system being triggered too often by our response to stress. This is what we call negative stress.
Some of the most common diseases and syndromes of our modern society can directly be linked to stress. Here are few examples:
n Heart Disease
n Susceptibility to Infections
n Immune Disorders ex: eczema, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
n Gastrointestinal Problems
n Muscular and Joint Pain
n Memory, Concentration and Learning Abilities
n Skin Disorders
n Unexplained Hair Loss
n Sleep Disturbances
n Weight Gain
The better we learn to handle stress, the more often we will perform at our peak, particularly in high pressure situations. How can we improve our capacity for handling stress? At it may appear that how we feel at any moment is the result of outside events. As a rule we perceive other people or external events to be the causes of our happiness, unhappiness, success, failure and how stressed out we feel- CAUSE-EFFECT. But if we break down the process of how we interact and perceive our environment, there is at least one additional stage to the process, OUR REACTION TO WHAT HAPPENS TO US.
Have you ever witnessed the same event as someone else and found out that they had a completely different experience of it? How is it possible that you could both be in the same place at the same time and yet experience things so differently? Take for example flying, climbing, sailing etc. Why does the very same event evoke feelings of terror in some and joy and relaxation in others? The difference is the emotional state they are in at the time. Your emotional state is a direct result of the pictures you make in your mind and the way you talk to yourself. Your internal representations of the world around you are unique to you and your personal way of perceiving the world. They are incomplete and filled with generalizations, deletions and distortions. This is the reason why two people can witness the exact same event and yet experience it completely differently.
When you understand that your feelings are a direct result of your thoughts you will understand that how you respond to any given situation is a direct result of the pictures you create in your mind. By taking responsibility for the pictures in your mind and the things you say to yourself you can begin to choose how you feel in any situation.Think about yourself entering a conference where you are supposed to hold a speech for hundreds of people. First imagine you starting your speech by forgetting everything you wanted to say and people laughing at you. If you had that movie running in your mind in a real situation how do you think you are going to feel? Imagine now the same scenario where you walk in the same conference room full of confidence and you hold your best speech ever. Can you feel the difference? Can you see how the different movies change your feelings and your stress levels??? By bringing a positive perspective to our lives and interpreting our experiences differently we can begin to respond beneficially to the events in our life, rather than chaotically.
You can’t always control what happens to you or what happens around you, but you can always control the way you respond to these external events.
Dealing with Stress
1. Identify the source of stress-The first step is to note what your experience as stressful and precipitate as negative physical response (eg, a sour stomach or headache).
2. Question the sources of stress. Ask yourself following questions:
- Do these stressful activities meet my own goals or someone else’s?
- Have I taken on tasks that I can reasonably accomplish?
- Which tasks are in my control and which ones aren’t?
3. Change your perspective and look for the positive-Reversing negative ideas and learning to focus on positive outcomes helps reduce tension and achieve goals. Use following steps:
- Identify the worst possible outcomes
- Rate the likelihood of these bad outcomes happening
- Envision a favourable result- Change the movie running in your mind to a more positive movie where you see yourself accomplishing your goals or dealing with the stress source with comfort and ease.
- Develop a specific plan to achieve the goal you have.
4. Shift the balance from stress producing to stress reducing activities. Studies have shown that it is more important for your immune system to increase your positive experiences rather than only focusing on decreasing stress.
a. Make a list of positive experiences, something that you like to do and that that are mentally or physically refreshing or produce a sense of accomplishment.
b. Make an Attempt to shift the balance from stress producing to stress-reducing activities by adding daily one of those pleasant events into your daily routine. Not only will it benefit you mentally but it will also have positive effects on the immune system and your overall wellbeing.
Other Simple Ways to Deal With Stress
- Don’t worry about things you can’t control, like the weather.
- Get away from your daily stresses with social events and hobbies.
- Organize yourself, plan ahead and don’t put too much on your schedule that you know ahead that you can’t finish. Set up realistic goals.
- Take Power naps. Given that the nervous system doesn’t differentiate between a real and a vividly imagined event a short relaxation with visualization where your mind travels to your favourite place will leave you refreshed and energized. Your body can as a matter of fact get a rest in 10-20 min that equals few hours sleep.
- Exercise. The body doesn’t distinguish between an emotional threat and a physical one. So regardless the threat is only in your mind, your body prepares to protect itself by fighting or running away and usually there is no one to fight and nowhere to run to The body gets worked up but cannot find a way to release its tension. The simples way to help the body release that excess tension is exercising.
- Laugh as much as you can. Many researches show that healthy people are usually happy people. There are many true stories about people that actually healed themselves by using laughter. When we smile or laugh we release serotonin (happy chemicals) in the brain. Also serotonin has a calming effect on your body so not only does smiling affect our immune-system but it is also important in dealing with stress.
Written by Helga Marin