Stress can mean different things to different people. For some of us, it can threaten to take over our life.
Is stress good or bad, or both?
While for other people, once they know its causes and effects, stress can add to the excitement and challenges of life.
Sometimes stress can be positive like when it motivates us to get things done that are important to us. However, it can also be negative like when we constantly feel under pressure or traumatised by too many demands.
The way we cope with these demands, such as work and relationships and finances, will depend on the way we think, our personality, and our previous life experiences. The good news is we can change how we react to and cope with stress.
People cope best with stress seem to have these things in common: A sense of being in control of their lives, a network of friends or family to provide social support, personality traits like flexibility and hopefulness. These are all things we can work on.
Recognising your stress levels
Apart from the physical symptoms like a pain in the shoulder or tummy trouble, there are also emotional signs like frustration, anxiety, a lack of interest or being overly sensitive.
Our behaviour may also change. We can eat too much, drink too much alcohol, be irritable with other people or become withdrawn from society. All of these can be signs of stress.
Sometimes we can recognise the short-term effects of stress but we may not be aware of how harmful the long-term effects can be.
Stress and our hearts
The link between stress, heart disease and stroke is complex and not fully understood yet.
If you feel stressed, your blood will produce more hormones. Although these hormones are useful in small amounts, too many of them continuously and over time can damage your arteries and may lead to high blood pressure.
Also, when life becomes stressful, people are more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink more caffeine, drink too much alcohol and be less physically active. All of these things can also contribute to stroke or heart problems.
The effects of stress
What are the effects of stress on our daily life and over our lifespan? Short-term effects of stress:
Long-term effects of stress
Conquering stress, what can I do?
Only you can change the way you react to stress. Thankfully there’s a wide range of things, big and small, that we can all do to reduce stress.
Serious thinking and behaviour can cause stress, no surprises there. But we do often forget that laughter can uncork this pressure, and release our built-up tension. Laughing also helps us to get a better view of the problem and makes our hearts less heavy with worry. Perhaps that’s why it’s called a light-hearted sense of humour.
Plan a treat
Whenever you are faced with a difficult challenge, a simple stressbuster idea is to plan a treat or reward for yourself afterwards. The possibilities are endless – a meal with a friend, a new item of clothing, a book, a jog, a relaxing bath or listening to music with your feet up. Having something to look forward to will help you cope much better.
The park? The beach? Find your own comfort zone where you can find support, strength and inner peace. This can be a person (partner, friend or colleague), a place or a routine ritual such as a long bath or a particular walk. Take some time to enjoy your comfort zone; not only does everyone deserve time out, it’s also vitally important.
We waste so much valuable time worrying about things. An effective way to stop this needless fretting is to make a ‘worry box’. Set aside a particular time each day for worrying about things. Write down what you are thinking about, then, put it aside until your set worry period comes along. Very often, many things that harassed us yesterday will have sorted themselves out by the time our ‘worry period’ comes along.
This really works, try it!
A massage will ease out aches and pains. It’ll help your mind and body to relax and unwind. There are a variety of techniques available, including aromatherapy and reflexology.
Get it out and let it go
We often try to hide what is troubling us, foolishly thinking that somehow we are controlling it by doing so. The ability to let go is a powerful weapon in the fight against stress. You can talk to a friend, write, paint a picture, scream, cry, go to the gym or even shout it out. How you do it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to clarify the problem, get it into perspective and cut it down to size.
Abdominal breathing technique
Our breathing patterns often reflect our state of mind or emotions. We breathe between 16,000 and 20,000 times a day, so it can be a powerful tool in gaining some control over how we react to situations.
The abdominal breathing technique below can be very useful. You simply need to get used to doing in order to enjoy all the physical and emotional benefits. Have a go, and you’ll soon notice the difference in how you deal with potentially stressful situations.
It may take up to 10 weeks of daily practice before you will feel the full difference, however, you may also begin to feel better instantly! Try it now.
How to master abdominal breathing
Sit in a comfortable position, both feet firmly on the ground. Close your eyes, place your left hand on your abdomen and your right hand on your chest.
Breathing normally, notice which hand moves as you breathe. Slowly count from one to four as you breathe in through your nose. Pause for two counts. Then open your mouth and mentally
count from one to six as you breathe out through your mouth.
As you breathe in this way, try to shift most of the movement toward your lower hand. Allow your abdomen to push your hand out as you breathe in and pull your abdomen in, letting your hand fall or move as you breathe out.
After several minutes of slow rhythmic breathing, let your hands move slowly to your sides as your abdomen continues to move freely in and out with each breath. Slowly open your eyes and sit quietly.
This technique is excellent for emotional calming. Practice this every day to get the best effect.
Tips for a healthy heart
Our guides on how to maintain a healthy & happy heart.