19937901_sThere isn’t a single person immune to the effects of stress.  Stress is the main cause of most emotional and physical distress. Left untreated the effects can be truly devastating.  Chronic stress can lead to serious health problems like high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems and ulcers, obesity, headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia, heart disease, chronic pain, and suicide.

In some instances, stress can be beneficial.  It can give you the drive and energy to get through an exam, or a deadline for a project.  But extreme stress left untreated can have dire health consequences affecting the immune system, your heart, and take an emotional toll on your heart and mind.

Because the consequences can be dire, it’s imperative we find a healthy way to deal with stress as it occurs so its potential negative effects are avoided.  Everyone is unique and the ways we manage stress should be, too.  You can find new hobbies to focus on like gardening or art, or put your physical energy into yoga or power walking to channel your stress.  But, please, don’t just medicate the symptoms you’re dealing with without making some lifestyle changes.

Personally I have found a few different coping mechanisms to deal with stress in my own life.  One is exercise.  When I exercise I clear my mind.  I focus on my physical response to the intensity of the work out.  I provide a channel for the stress to flow out and away from my body.  The energy my body gives off exercising is like an exit system for my stress.  Exercise also boosts the serotonin levels in your brain, which are the “feel good” neurotransmitters that affect our mood.

Sometimes the answer is as simple as walking away and taking a few deep breaths.  Deep breathing is really critical to help reset your body, slow your heart rate and blood pressure down and give you perspective.  The frontal lobe of your brain can’t properly think through a situation if the fire alarm is going off (amygdala) and the adrenalin and cortisol levels surge.  We often just need a few moments to calm down, think about the situation, rationalize it out, get back on even footing, and then we can deal with what’s in front of us.  It’s ok to take a break from what’s causing you distress.  The break from the constant barrage of the stressor can lead to the breakthrough to overcome the situation.

One of the biggest ways we create stress for ourselves is because we expect perfection, from others, and ourselves too.  We are all human.  We will make mistakes, fall short, and get things wrong sometimes.  And that’s ok, because we learn from all of those things.  We have an uncanny ability to take those lessons and, at the next opportunity, rise to the challenge and surpass expectations.  So give yourself the opportunity to fail every once in a while.  Then when the big wins come, the reward is so much greater!

Perhaps the most important thing I do is maintain my spiritual connection.  Whether it’s meditation or prayer, etc., it’s important for you to get very still, center yourself, and focus on you.  Listen carefully and focus on what your inner being is trying to tell you.  Being connected on a deeper level helps your mind and body relax.  It allows you to forgive yourself and others, let go of situations, and release physical and mental stress.

When you learn some simple ways to channel the stress in your life, you can reduce the harmful manifestations physically and emotionally.  But you have to be proactive. If you know you are stressed out…or if you are already dealing with the negative consequences of leading a chronically stressful life (physically or emotionally), it’s time to do something about it.  Stop pretending you are invincible and you can continue to mistreat your body and mind without paying the price.  It’s time to pay attention, take notice, and DO something about it.  You have only one body and one mind.  You absolutely MUST take excellent care of them both to live a healthy and happy life.  I’m here to help.  Let’s DO this.