You may hear people say things like, “I am so stressed!” or “I am stress out!” and sometimes it seems like the term is thrown about indiscriminately. The truth is that stress is a major problem in our society. As life has become faster and debts have become deeper, pressures have increased and people are becoming more stressed. However, literally millions of people, in the United States alone, suffer from stress.
To put it into perspective, it is estimated that $300 billion, or $7.500 per employee, is spent each year in the U.S. on compensation claims that are stress related as well as absenteeism, reduced productivity, medical expenses and employee turnover. In fact, direct medical expenses are approximately 50% higher for employees who report stress. Stress is a serious condition that can drag you down and attack you in any number of ways. It can wreck your job and it can wreck your life.
Causes of Stress
The causes of stress are as numerous and as varied as the people who suffer from it. Job pressure, debt, major changes in your life can all create stress. There is really no set cause for everyone, it is more about each individual’s perceptions of events and how they react to various things in their environment. When someone perceives something as a threat they can become stressed. This may be a physical threat, financial or wellbeing and this goes hand in hand with two other causes of stress which are fear and uncertainty.
There are many things that can happen in our daily lives that can create stress. The death of a loved one, health problems, divorce, marriage, new baby, and the ups and downs of raising kids can all contribute to your level of stress. People who are victims of crime, have sexual problems or who have substance abuse issues can all experience stress. Changing schools, jobs or moving to a new house or town can also be stressful. It just depends on the person because what causes stress in one person may not cause stress in someone else. What is more important is being able to recognize the symptoms of stress.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress attacks literally every part of your body. It can cause you to have memory problems, be confused and impede your ability to concentrate. It can also cause you to be moody, restless and even angry. Depression is a symptom of stress as well as a risk of stress, as is anxiety and anxiety disorders. It can cause you to over eat or under eat, cause insomnia or fatigue where you feel that you need to sleep all the time. You can get headaches, back aches, muscle tension and pain, digestive problems, chest pain, high blood pressure, skin problems and decreased sex drive. The list is extensive, but many health problems can be traced to stress in some way or another. But it is important that you are able to recognize the symptoms of stress because the dangers of stress can be devastating.
Dangers of Stress
There are some serious health problems that have been linked to stress. Recent research indicates that approximately two thirds to 90 percent of all illness is stress related. These are some of the more prevalent health problems that are linked to stress:
+ Heart Attack
+ Substance Abuse
+ Hypertension/High Blood Pressure
+ IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
+ Memory Loss
+ Autoimmune Disease
+ Thyroid Problems
+ Eating Disorders
+ Sexual Dysfunction
Stress Reduction Techniques
There are ways to manage stress and reduce it, thereby reducing your risks of certain health conditions.
1. Maintain a Healthy Diet – A healthy diet that includes fresh vegetables, fruits, grains and lean meats can do wonders for your body’s ability to handle stress. Avoid the commercially processed foods and canned foods, they are high in sodium and have additives that are not conducive to overall good health.
2. Get Plenty of Rest – Sleep allows your body to rest and recharge so you need to get as much sleep as your body needs. This may mean eight hours for some people, more for others and even less for some people. Listen to your body to determine how much sleep you need, then do it.
3. Take a Break – Don’t push yourself. If you get tired or frustrated, take a break. Go for a walk, go outside, at least walk away. This is particularly important if you are on a job, especially if it is a high pressure job. Learn to take a break now and then. Burnout causes great stress.
4. Don’t Try to do it All – Don’t try to take on everything, learn to delegate. There is nothing wrong with not being able to handle everything. You should not expect to do it so don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. You may need to learn how to say no now and then, but you will feel better in the long run.
5. Take a Class – Enroll in a yoga class. Yoga can help you focus, find balance, be peaceful and relax. It is a great stress reliever.
6. Expand your Mind – Take a class in something that interests you. If you are having trouble with debt, take a class in debt management. The empowerment that you can gain from learning how to manage a source of your stress is a wonderful feeling.
7. Say No to Drugs, Alcohol and Cigarettes – Drugs and alcohol can only start you on a vicious circle that will ultimately destroy you. While many people claim that cigarettes calm them, nicotine is actually a stimulant and it exacerbates your stress as well as depletes your health with upper respiratory problems and other illnesses. An unhealthy body does not cope well with stress.
8. Get some Exercise – Regular exercise can do wonders for your stress level. Take a walk, lift weights, whatever makes you feel better. The important thing is to get moving.
9. Talk to Someone – Sometimes just talking to someone can make you feel better. If you don’t have anyone close to you to talk to, talk to a therapist or counselor. If you go to church, you may have access to counseling through your church. There are many options for counseling.
10. Believe in Something – Studies have shown that people who have some sort of faith or belief, whether it is Buddhist, Christian, Muslim or some other faith, have lower stress levels. But most of all, have faith in yourself.