Everyday Stress And How To Deal With It
Fight or flight? The answer to that question was a matter of life and death in past times and evolution came up with a brilliant one: Stress
Ancient times are long gone, but the mechanism is still there. Today, all it takes is the phone to ring to trigger that same ancient defense mechanism. It’s a false alarm that eats away our energy and, eventually, can make us sick.
Headaches, tension, insomnia, anger, a short temper – there are many symptoms related to stress. Problems with psychosocial relationships are one of the main triggers of stress and anxiety. Hardly comparable to the situations our ancestors experienced in their everyday life.
But even if today’s threats are only imaginary, the biological reaction remains the same.
STRESS IS FEAR WE CAN’T CONTROL
Being on high alert all the time also causes mental damage. It creates ‘internal chaos’ that throws us off-balance and becomes exhausting. Eventually, it can lead to fatigue or even burnout. Stressors become uncontrollable when we don’t find the right answers. The overarching pressure that ensues often leads to depression and the feeling of being threatened, can in the long run cause anxiety disorder.
LOSING FEAR THROUGH MINDFULNESS
Proven techniques from the practices of mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, and autogenic training can improve self-perception. That way, we’re learning how to let anger and the exhausting brooding pass before they can blanket our body and mind with fear. The techniques can also point us to the weak spots in our body. Studies have shown that this kind of retreat into our inner consciousness can alleviate pain more effectively than strong painkillers, and it’s also used to treat anxiety disorders. Add to that increased mental performance and stress resistance as well as many other advantages.
IT HELPS TO EXERCISE – AND NOT JUST YOUR BODY
Physical fitness is key to being resistant to stress. Exercise makes us more alert, focused, receptive and it improves our cognition. We can collect more resources to counter stress, and while our body is working, our mind can find valuable moments of peace. Exercising our minds can also be healthy. Studies have found that mental training can be just as effective as physical exercise to better cope with stress.
STRESS IS FINE IF THE DOSE IS HEALTHY
That said, the body’s stress response can be positive in the short term: It speeds up the heart rate and lifts blood pressure, causes muscles to flex and our mind to become fully alert – so bring on the challenges! However, if we constantly operate above the limit, the mechanism that was meant to save our lives in ancient times leads to the opposite: It makes us sick.
CARE FOR YOUR BODY
Stress starts in your mind and then impacts your body. It’s key to be aware of this unity of body and mind if you want to manage stress effectively. A lack of care for our body will come back to haunt us – for example with tension and pain. Caring for your body can mean very different things, from a balanced nutrition to exercise and mindfulness, all of it building the foundation for effective stress management. The earlier we realize this, the faster we can start a life that’s more fulfilled and free.
Mindfulness, meditation, yoga and other forms of relaxation have a quite prominent spot in today’s perception of the masses.However, still, a lot of people still connect those practices with spirituality and esoteric and therefore are rather skeptical.
But as extensive studies and research have shown, those practices actually work. But why do they work?
It’s not because you work with a teacher, or study the ancient wisdom of Buddhism or find your zen or something similar. They work because they train your mind and this is actually good news. Especially, for the skeptical. Because everybody can train his or her mind without the need of believing in something, except for the human ability to change.
If you believe that you have the ability to take up control and responsibility in your life, you will be able to find relief for your individual stress problem. If you don’t then we recommend you to dive a little bit into the science of the brain and what scholars call brain plasticity. A good start is this video:
The answer to your stress problem is as individual as your problem itself. Therefore we can’t tell you, which way will work for you. The only thing we can tell you is the general theory behind decreasing stress and increasing your stress resistance.
Today’s problems with stress lie in our decreasing ability to focus on the moment. Instead of being present in the here and now we live in the future (usually expressed through fear) or dwell in the past (usually expressed through regret). Living in the future or present robs us of the ability to relax in the moment since it puts our mind under a constant emotional pressure. Especially if we feel fear or regret or other unpleasant emotions.
The simple solution to this issue is to learn to live in the present. To focus on what you’re doing without getting distracted by the mistakes of your pasts or the threats in your future. However, simple does not equal easy.
The way to achieve this focus depends on who you are. On what you believe and the according to the narrative you live by. If you believe in the wisdom of the old ages, you will find it easy to find this focus through meditation and yoga for example. If you are rather skeptical but believe in the power of science, you can find this focus by measuring your stress and detecting stress patterns in your daily life.
The first step for your individual problem is to get to know yourself. What type of person you are. This will answer your question what is the best way for you to learn to focus.
And with focus, you will be able to overcome your stress.
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