Stress is the number one killer in the US, are you handling it ok?
Stress is the number one killer! You hear it all the time. Well, what “they” are saying, is that stress leads to the number one killer in the US, which is heart disease. We also know now that drug overdose is the number one cause of accidental death in the US. Addiction is one of the most unhealthy ways to handle stress. People who die of stress and stress related diseases simply don’t have to. Both of my parents died of heart disease and I’m doing everything I can to avoid the same fate. We can all do our part to help create healthier lifestyles and positive change. Here are 7 ways you can help yourself and others handle stress better.
The New York Times recently released their guide to “Be Better at Stress.” It’s a fantastic resource and I concur with all of what they’re promoting. Here are some of the highlights of the program with a little added info from yours truly.
7 categories and actions to help you deal with stress a little easier:
Taking control of your stress simply means changing your perception to it. When something stressful happens, we can take it as the world ending, or we can see it as part of the natural course of life. In my yoga classes, I share that life always throws us the “unexpected.” It’s never what happens to us in life, it’s always how we deal with what happens to us. So, my recommendation is to become more aware of how you’re dealing with what’s happening to you and if you’re thrown off balance too easy, take back your power and control your perception. Really, our perception of things is all we have control over.
Here’s an example. If a person has gone through a life of tragedies, let’s say they grew up in a war torn country, spent time in a refugee camp, had to survive on small rations of food, etc, that person may handle getting fired from a job much different than someone brought up in middle class America. Of course, there is no way to prove this hypothetical, the point is simply to show that we all handle situations differently based on our own individual experience. Don’t let your experiences get you down, always look for the silver lining.
This is an interesting concept, but if you’ve ever done some jumping jacks you already know about it. Practicing stress trains you to deal with it better. Think about muscle adaptation. When you workout, your muscles will get sore, then they rebuild and get stronger. If you don’t wait too long your workout will be easier next time. Your body “got used to” the stress of the workout because you practiced. If you’ve ever trained for a 10k or a marathon, for instance, you know that first time you run is a lot different than after you’ve been training for weeks. You’ve practiced the stress and your body has acclimated. This same principle applies to relationships, business, and many other areas stress is involved.
Yes, yes, yes! Do it. Don’t stop doing it and encourage your family, friends, and kids to do it. It’s the easiest way to get through a tough time. Of course, study after study shows that exercise works. It lowers blood pressure, decreases stress levels, and so much more. There have been many times I can remember when a good run just helped me relax and feel better. A good sweat is all you need and if you can do it outdoors, even better. This is not one you can skip and it might be first on my list because it’s the easiest thing to do. Sign up for a class, go for a run, a bike ride, go to yoga, etc. Do something you like if possible, but it really doesn’t matter. Just do it.
Give your mind a rest. Scientists estimate that we think 50-70,000 thoughts everyday. There is no way to stop that train of thinking, but there is a way to strengthen your thought process and begin to direct it to more peaceful productive thoughts. Just a few minutes of meditation everyday can make a world of difference. I’ve created a free 3 part meditation video series you can find here.
You can also journal to help calm your mind and sort out your thoughts. In her excellent book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends ‘morning pages.’ It is stream of consciousness writing, no editing, for 3 pages or 10-15 minutes. I did this for years and it helped enormously. It feels like a meditation because all the thoughts that run around your head in the morning sort themselves out, then you can go about your day in a much more focused way.
So many people use food to handle stress. This only causes more problems. Whether you’re an over eater, an under eater, someone who has some kind of eating disorder, these are all deeper issues that have nothing to do with the food. Mindful eating is the solution. Become aware of what you’re eating and why. Are you hungry? Excellent. Angry? Not such a good idea. If you can take an inventory while you’re not dealing with a lot of stress, you’ll create a baseline for yourself. Then you’ll know when you’re reacting and using food as a tool to anesthetize.
Support and Relationships
Your family and friends can be a big source of stress. This is definitely something to watch out for. Are you in a horrible relationship? Do you need to distance yourself from your parents? Are your friends bullying you? Meanwhile, during times of intense stress, your family and friends can be the ones who will give you the love you need. It’s important to make sure your friends are supportive and your relationships with your family are healthy enough so that when the ‘you know what’ hits the fan, they’ll be there for you.
Stress effects your life in so many ways. Your heart with premature heart attackes, your stomach with irritable bowel syndrome, your sleep or lack thereof more likely, diabetes risk, especially for the food folks. Reproduction and sex lives usually suffer when people are stressed out. We know a lot about the effect of stress, now it’s time to put all the tools we know can help us, into action.
Ultimately, this is one of the main issues we have as a society. It’s the lack of ability to deal with the truth or what is. We always seem to get stressed by reality and then take a pill, smoke a joint, shove ice cream down our face, drink too much, or smoke. The list goes on and on. Until we break these habits, we are going to find it much more difficult to make lasting change. This is your beginning or just a reminder that we can change. We don’t have to live a stressful life all the time. The key is starting somewhere. Every morning is an opportunity to handle your stresses with a little more grace. And maybe eventually, you’ll be having so much fun you’ll be jumping over a glacier in Peru. As always, I’m here to help. Find me on social media @teddymcdonald.
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Source: 7 Ways to Deal with Stress