It’s finally over. The tsunami of robo-calls, campaign commercials, yard signs and debates – it’s all history, for now. But you may be feeling a bit shell-shocked these days, and for good reason. Ugly political arguments – and the incessant one-upmanship – have significantly increased stress levels in many individuals who are already stressed by the sagging economy and unemployment. However, if you can identify the stress triggers in your life, you can develop solid and consistent coping mechanisms to deal with them.
What exactly is stress? You certainly feel it the moment you have a meltdown. Loosely defined, stress is a physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stress can actually be very beneficial, at times, causing the adrenaline rush that helps you escape from extreme danger. Everyday, however, persistent stress is not healthy, because it wears you down mentally, emotionally, and even physically. Its sources are many – election overload for one, but also family, work, relationships, health issues, and financial problems. When left untreated, stress can result in disease and premature death. The goal, then, is to keep it under control.
Start by focusing on those aspects of your life you can control such as your food diet, attitude and exercise habits. You can’t control the daily weather, taxes, traffic and death. But you can control how you respond to these stress triggers.
How do you know if you have stress overload? Take an inventory of the symptoms below. If you have more than one, you may be suffering from stress and should seek medical treatment if the symptoms continue:
- Headaches often
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased respiration
- Elevated blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
- Stomach distress
- Weight gain/loss
- Decreased libido
- Hormonal issues in both men and women
- Weakened immune system – tendency to catch colds or develop fever blisters often
- Impaired memory – brain shrinkage
Stress can actually cause such maladies as cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and autoimmune disorders (lupus, arthritis, multiple sclerosis). These chronic diseases cost the U.S. 1 trillion dollars per year and the price tag is going up. According to a report by Milken Institute, a research think tank, the economic impact of chronic illness goes far beyond the $277 billion to treat the disease and takes its biggest toll on economic productivity in sick days by employees. What’s more is that ongoing stress can shorten your life by 15-20 years.
The good news is that you can save both money and sick leave if you practice a little prevention where stress is concerned. For the cost of your time spent taking your daily walk, you might just avoid having to take blood pressure and cholesterol medications. Dodge diabetes and you save yourself $13,000 dollars per year. If you keep your body healthy by exercising and eating right, you can delay or stop the likelihood of most diseases.
Life is full of peaks and valleys. To help you experience more peaks than valleys, we have developed ten stress busters for you to incorporate into your daily routine:
- Think positively – expect good things
- Get active – keep moving
- Make healthy food choices
- Cultivate inner peace – meditate, pray
- Rest – take power naps
- Get out of the house or office each day and breathe, refresh, visit
- Unplug yourself from the TV, computer, iPod
- Get wet – soak in a hot tub or bubble bath with aromatherapy
- Take small steps – do one task at a time; prioritize, downsize, organize
- Laugh – find someone or something to make you smile
To complement your Stress Busters try these 3 exercises:
- Take a mental vacation to a place that you find peaceful. Visualize a balloon – float with it to that peaceful place.
- Sit comfortably and focus on being relaxed and breathing normally. Starting with your toes, tighten each muscle all the way up to your head for a 3 second squeeze, then release.
- Stand or sit and shadow box, starting with slow punches that get faster. Warning: Do not punch items or co-workers as that can be hazardous to both your health and career.
The bottom line is that if you reduce stress, you’ll be healthier and live longer. So chill out and stay active. As Coach Stacy always says “When you’re moving you’re improving!”