Can you image a life WITHOUT stress?
In a word, NO. Stress is a normal and natural part of life, and it will never entirely go away. In fact, in some instances, stress can be a good thing, keeping us alert and on task. Thankfully, though, there are some things you can do to help minimize the amount of stress you feel and perhaps utilize it to your benefit when possible.
What is stress?
According to many scientists, the term “stress” is not very useful because it is very subjective and is difficult to define and quantify. Science aside, however, we all know it exists, and we certainly know when we are experiencing it. According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), stress was first defined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.” This definition is probably as good as any, but through the years, the concept of stress has grown to encompass many things – information overload, physical disease, emotional distress and more. While we can’t all necessarily agree on a comprehensive definition of stress, all of the research, according to the AIS and others, confirms the sense of having little or no control is always distressful – and that’s what stress is all about.
So it exists. Now what?
Good or bad, stress exists. So, now what? For starters, we can start by recognizing that some stress is good and appreciate that response when it is helpful. For discussion purposes, we will focus on perceived “bad” stress – the kind that makes us uncomfortable and often affects our daily functioning.
According to the National Institutes of Health, there are healthy ways to help minimize and/or cope with your stress:
• Schedule regular times for healthy and relaxing activities.
• At the end of the day, take particular note of your accomplishments.
• Look for ways to control your environment to avoid stress. For example, leave early for work if traffic is an issue; avoid people who cause you stress when possible; or consider bringing home pizza one night a week to lessen to burden of having to cook each day.
• Exercise regularly. As little as 30 minutes of gentle walking each day can help.
• Stay in touch with friends, family and community or religious/spiritual counselors who can provide emotional and other support.
• Adjust some of your standards. Striving for perfection can lead to additional stress.
• Practice saying NO! Set priorities and decide what you can and cannot reasonably accomplish without experiencing overload.
Learn more. If you are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, have suicidal thoughts or are using drugs/alcohol to deal with stress, seek immediate help from a qualified behavioral health provider. Contact Mercy’s Behavioral Health Help Center 24 hours a day at (515) 271-6111 for assistance.