To Your Health in 2012: Reduce Stress
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012 14:02
Are you familiar with a little thing we call "stress"?
Chances are, you are well acquainted with this phenomenon. But what is it exactly? There is actually "good stress"; however when it comes to health, this is not the concern. It's "bad stress" -- and our response to it -- which can lead to problems.
In fact, "bad stress" can kill. A recent study published in the European Heart Journal, found that workers who reported high levels of stress had a 68% greater risk of developing fatal heart conditions, than those who were not as stressed. Other impacts of stress include illness (medical experts concur that up to 90% of all doctor visits involve stress related complaints); burn out, increased negative emotions (and conflict), difficulty sleeping, weight gain. . .well, you get the unpleasant picture.
Dr. Michael McVay defines "bad stress" as: "The perception of a threat to my psychological or physical well-being; and I am unable to cope with that threat." This definition gives us some insight into what we can do. The key here is to increase our ability to cope; to take control where we can and be more at choice about how we respond to stress. So here's the not so good news about stress responses: 30-40% of it is genetically determined and there isn't much we can do about it.
The GOOD news is that 60-70% is a LEARNED response (or habit). This is where we have control; where each of us can take charge and make a new choice to reduce stress and increase our health. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions:
Ever notice how you hold your breath when you feel stressed? This leads to a "snowball stress effect", in the form of headaches, muscle tension, short tempers, etc. So the most simple, portable, practical stress management tool I know is to take a very deep breath and exhale fully. This allows you to break the stress snowball and focus your attention on something else, such as. . .
2) Find something to laugh about every day
Research indicates that laughter not only helps us to feel better psychologically; it has physiological benefits as well – such as lowering blood pressure and muscle relaxation. Tip: post a cartoon that makes you giggle at your workstation or on the fridge – somewhere you will see it regularly. Then laugh!
3) Take a break
If you find yourself in a stressful situation, look for a way to take a break. Go for a walk; or even a quick trip to the restroom! Changing your environment can help shift your focus so you can breathe, relax a bit and think through alternatives to the "stress snowball".
Practice these simple stress solutions to see what new habits can work for you; and make 2012 your most stress free year ever!
Visit SimpleStressSolutions.com for information on stress, stress relief and sign up for a complimentary monthly stress-ease tip, delivered to your email inbox.