Are you stressed? According to the American Psychological Association, 47% of all Americans (and more than 50% of working adults) say that they are concerned with the amount of stress in their lives. I believe that stress is one of the fastest growing chronic conditions in America, and steps should be taken immediately if we are to avoid a cultural epidemic. This week, I want to share with you some of the things I have learned during my career as an online mental health therapist about the dangers of chronic stress and the steps you can take to combat it.
Different Types Of Stress
Acute stress and chronic stress are the two predominant types of stress we experience:
- Acute Stress is typically caused by an unpredictable or unusual event in our lives, such as giving a speech, being or almost being in a car accident, or racing against a deadline. This type of stress generally resolves as soon as the situation has passed.
- Chronic Stress is usually caused by an ongoing challenge or difficulty, such as battling chronic health conditions, mourning the loss of a loved one, coping with domestic abuse, or struggling with financial challenges. Because these events tend to go on for a long time, the stress people experience from these situations can span several months or even years.
Some people also suffer from Episodic Acute Stress, wherein they experience acute stress in an endless cycle. As soon as one issue is resolved, another presents itself. People who are always running late or always have too many projects going at once to properly manage any of them may suffer from episodic acute stress.
The Dangers Of Stress
Each type of stress presents its own health risks. Acute stress typically causes symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, stomach pain, irritability, anxiety, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and more. If managed properly, these types of symptoms can actually benefit the situation by making us more alert, more focused, and more likely to take steps to resolve the issue as soon as possible. These symptoms typically subside after the issue has been resolved and the stress is alleviated.
The symptoms of chronic stress, however, are an entirely different story. Because chronic stress lasts for so long, the impact it has on the body is often much more severe. Because your body is constantly on alert, it wears on the adrenals, weakens the immune system, and can alter both the digestive and reproductive systems. Chronic stress can lead to dangerous and even life-threatening conditions such as ulcers, heart disease, strokes, cancer, and suicide.
8 Tips For Relieving Stress
In light of everything we have just discussed, it is easy to see why managing our stress and taking steps to alleviate it is so essential. In my experience as a virtual psychologist, I have identified several tricks that can help reduce stress. If given the chance, I believe these strategies may greatly reduce the level of stress you experience in your day-to-day life.
- Change your thought process. Thinking negatively only makes the situation worse. Next time you catch yourself thinking “I always mess up,” or “I can’t do this,” instead tell yourself that you’re doing the best you can and that you can always seek help if needed.
- Don’t expect to get it right the first time. Life is messy, and it’s okay to make mistakes. Cut yourself some slack – it’s unnecessary (and unrealistic) to expect perfection.
- Give yourself time to do the things you enjoy. Feeding your soul is crucial. Identify some of your favorite pastimes (watching movies, reading books, going for walks, etc) and give yourself a little time every day to enjoy them.
- Exercise often. Exercise releases endorphins and boosts our mood. It doesn’t have to be strenuous – even moderate exercise offers great physical and mental benefits.
- Identify the things you have no control over and let them go. There will always be things in life you can’t control, such as the weather and other people’s behavior. Accepting that you cannot affect these things will help you to be less personally affected by them.
- Be physically affectionate. Physical affection has been shown to be hugely beneficial when it comes to relieving stress. Make it a point to kiss your partner frequently and/or hug your close friends and family.
- Take deep breath. Deep breathing massages the organs, oxygenates the brain and muscles, and calms the mind. Try taking deep breaths next time you find yourself feeling stressed.
- Learn to delegate. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Delegating tasks can be a great way to lighten your load and reduce your stress level.
Seeking Help For Dealing With Stress
You don’t have face your journey alone! Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you are the only one dealing with these types of issues; as we discussed at the beginning of this article, approximately half of all Americans feel that they are overly stressed. If you have been battling with stress and are looking for help, I would love the chance to talk with you. As an online mental health counselor, I can meet with you at any time, anywhere, and with the utmost confidentiality. Together we can work to find solutions and strategies that will ease your burdens and improve your overall quality of life. Visit my website or call me directly at (248) 730-5544 to learn more.
Samantha M. Ruth, Transformational Psychologist
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