Stress – Too Dangerous Not to Handle

March 28, 2013 Mental balance

stressWhat is stress?

We all agree that stress – in its negative perception – is the feeling that we face a great pressure, too big to handle. Nevertheless, it is also true that everybody has his/her own limit. What is “too much” for me can be quite OK for somebody else or the other way around.

Usually we think of stress as being caused by external factors – the job or major life changes like a divorce or financial problems – but there are also internal factors. These may refer to a pessimistic attitude, lack of assertiveness or maybe some (too great) expectations which are not realistic.

Long-term exposure to stress can have serious negative effects on our health, causing heart diseases, digestive problems, insomnia and depression, autoimmune diseases. It can also accelerate the aging process.

How to fight it?

Laughter

Physical activity, relaxation techniques, and laughter are simple tricks that can eliminate stress. More complex factors are related to our personal relationships and inner strength: the happier and more balanced our life is, the easier is to kick stress out of our body.

Research about laughter showed its benefits in stress management.Elizabeth Scott, M.S. quotes one of the studies which suggests that we laugh too little: a child laughs up to 400 times a day, whereas adults only laugh 15 times a day.

Laughter is able to increase the level of endorphins, the so-called happiness hormones and reduce the level of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline or growth hormone. By balancing hormones, our immune system grows stronger and can counteract the physical effects of stress.

A good laughter can drive us away from negative thoughts, guilt and stress, and provides emotional release. It brings us closer to the others and can improve our social interaction. We have all experienced the complicity that laughing creates in a group, making others feel left aside when they enter the room and don’t know what all are laughing about. Last, but not least, laughing leads to a good workout of the heart, abs and shoulders.

Laughter is great, we all agree, but in stressful situations we don’t actually feel like laughing. Don’t worry, you can always rely on a good movie, TV series, or book – whichever is most appealing to you – for a good laughter. Or on your friends – if you have at least one friend to laugh with is great, or you can try going to a stand up comedy show.

Finally, a change of attitude is most welcome: try kicking out the frustrations with a good laugh instead of giving into them. Maybe you won’t succeed the first time but the good news is you can fake it at first: the brain can’t say the difference between real laughter and fake laughter, as well as it can’t tell the difference between a real experience and one which we imagine in detail (according to dr. Maltz, author of Psycho-Cybernetics). Who knows, in the end we may even obtain real laughter after having faked it.

Happiness

The same author quotes several recent studies about what makes people happy and how happiness can bring serenity to our lives and eliminate stress. The point is understanding what makes us happy. Then, enriching our lives with those things has the magic power to make stress go away.

Thus, we have to cultivate relationships with the people we love and take the time to forget about stressful situations in weekends – when most of the people are happier than during the workdays.  At work, we should try and relax at least for a few minutes, during the lunch break, and in the evening we should forget all about the problems of the day.

Another very fair point is that happiness is not only about getting what we want but also about cherishing what we have. Gratefulness and kindness are efficient anti stress weapons and solutions for a richer life.

Positive things are attracted by positive thoughts and images. We should focus on having at least one daily positive emotion. It’s incredible how much time and energy we lose worrying about what is going to happen when we don’t even have the power to DO anything at that point. If nothing more, we should try and only worry when the “right” time comes and not a month, a week or an hour earlier, when we cannot do anything to change things for the better.

And if we don’t succeed to make changes on the inside we can resort to a trick: a good posture or a fake smile can send the right signals to the brain, making possible to feel better and more confident eventually.

Last, but not least, getting enough sleep can prevent chronic stress and all its negative effects on health.

Comprehensive information about stress management is available here.