Don’t you wish there was a button to stop stress? I do, too. Unfortunately, stress is a normal part of our lives. In fact, we need the stress. It can provide us with the motivation to get stuff done. It’s when it becomes “distress” that it can be a problem. How do we know the difference? Normal stress can cause temporary changes in our bodies and responses to things. We might experience a faster heartbeat, restlessness, overthinking, and preoccupation. It typically lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days but passes, and we move on. “Distress” is marked by irritability, difficulty thinking clearly, high blood pressure, racing heart, inability to take action or make clear decisions. It doesn’t go away quickly and often interferes with the ability to perform everyday tasks, including work. Obviously, being in distress for a long time can take a serious toll on our mental and physical well-being.
What’s the most efficient way to move away from distress? It involves taking action and doing something about it. Being passive and hoping for a better outcome is not likely to change your circumstances. First, address your thinking. Are you thinking about your circumstances realistically or are you allowing your mind to wander, causing you to have thoughts that only make you more stressed? Write down your thoughts. Look at how realistic they are. Is there anything you can do to change your negative, unrealistic thoughts? Perhaps you’re unable to change them, but you can change your reaction to them. It helps to remember that not everything we think is true. So it can be beneficial to remind yourself to check your thoughts before you run away with them.
Second, what are you doing to take care of your body during times of distress? Many people make unhealthy eating choices and consume food based on emotion rather than real hunger. Emotional eating is an unhealthy response to dealing with life’s difficulties. We tend to avoid exercising as well. Sometimes we get waylaid by the challenges that the thought of moving and sweating is too easy to avoid. It’s actually what your body needs. Recently, I read that to beat back the negative effects of stress; you need to exercise twelve minutes a day. That’s it –twelve minutes. There are obvious benefits to exercising longer, but a good walk will do you well on so many levels.
Where’s your support circle when you need them? There’s nothing that feels better than to have a core group of people who can be your strength when needed. Try not to overwhelm them with all of your problems, but releasing your pressing concerns and having a strong shoulder to lean on is important. Don’t forget to exchange the favor when needed.
If you don’t have a support circle, find one or create one for yourself. There’s no real joy in loneliness, and we all need someone at some point in our lives.
Got Faith? Turning your worries over to a higher power can be comforting. Sometimes acceptance is the key to moving through hard times. Life happens and is unpredictable, while that stinks, learning how to accept our lack of control can have a positive impact on us emotionally. Even if you don’t believe in a higher power, finding a space to lose yourself, to commune with nature and allow your thoughts to wander, is often a spiritual experience.
While there’s no magic button to delete stress, you can get on top of it before it causes damage to your mind, body, and soul.