Stress can be both good and bad. It should not be the goal to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to help improve our lives. The fight or flight response helped prehistoric man stay alive from various kinds of threats such as animals, warriors and natural disasters. In modern life the stressors we feel also have a purpose. They allow us to feel alive, meet challenges and deadlines, secure our safety and pursue a fulfilling life. Hans Selye who was a pioneer in stress research said that “stress is the spice of life; the absence of stress is death.”
So why is everyone trying to get rid of it? When stress becomes a chronic condition it can become debilitating causing illness physically and psychologically. It harms our cardiovascular system, depletes the immune system, and leads to depression. It increases cortisol levels which lead to weight gain and abdominal fat. It can also damage brain cells and deplete our muscle and bone mass.
Stress is cumulative so it helps to intervene early before it can cause damage. Know the physiological indicators of anxiety. Look for elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, trembling, insomnia, headaches, indigestion and changes in appetite or sleeping patterns.
Awareness of the sources and triggers of your tension will also help you manage it. There are both pleasant and unpleasant sources. Examples of some pleasant causes may be weddings, births and promotions. Unpleasant sources are more obvious such as pressures at work, financial worries and feeling lonely.
Much of the anxiety we experience is manufactured in our minds. So it helps to change our perception of the situation to lessen the negative feelings. For example, worrying about money will create many different fears in your mind. Instead use this is an opportunity for you to practice learning about money and how to improve your relationship to money, which will help you release your financial worries permanently.
You can cope with stress in both healthy and unhealthy ways. Alcohol and drug use are definitely unhealthy ways to cope. A much healthier approach is to change your perception of the situation from one of fear to a more positive way of looking at it. In addition try relaxation techniques such as breathing, daily exercise, meditation, yoga, massage, counseling, visualization, walking in nature, developing close relationships, getting quality sleep, saying affirmations, and finding a purpose in life.