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Chronic Stress Destroys Bodies, Minds, and Lives!

It is only January 14th. Since January 1st, I've had deep conversations with a few professionals who shared that they were feeling stressed and exhausted. They are frustrated and desperate about the situations they are currently in - dealing with a bad boss, unhelpful teammates, curt customers, enduring a terrible daily commute to work, overpromised and underdelivered employment perks and promotions, inability to land a dream job, etc.

During each of the conversations, I discovered that new goals were set as part of a New Year's resolution. In every case, I heard that just 14 days ago, promises were made (to Self) to do something new and better in life to be rid of stress. Just two weeks ago almost everything felt achievable. Now that we are back to work, it seems as the past feeling of pain caused by stress is rearing its ugly head, and the new hopes and dreams are slowly dissipating.

The good news is, it has been only two weeks and our goals are fresh in our minds. We can take control over stress before it creates permanent damage to the nervous system and even DNA. The bad news is, most who are stressed will not take the first step in addressing the situation they are in and will continue to deteriorate. There are many reasons why we don't stop the cycle of feeling stressed. In some cases we don't even realize the damaging effects of stress and in others, we don't have the knowledge or a support system to get us out of the harmful ways.

Why should we care about taking control of stress ASAP?

Knowledge is key! Stress is a powerful emotion, and it impacts how we act or behave in different situations. Hans Selye, defined stress in 1936 as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Stress refers to how our body and mind respond appropriately to emotional and physical threats. According to American Psychological Association (APA), there are three kinds of stress: acute, episodic acute, and chronic stress. Based on the survey results conducted by APA over 40 percent of all adults say they lie awake at night because of stress.

Acute stress is the most common type and could potentially be beneficial in small amounts, and thankfully most people can recognize it and manage to move on. For instance, the ride on the roller coaster or skiing down the steep slope are thrilling activities, but your body and mind go through short-term stress (reaction). Getting your car wrecked also can bring emotional distress, but could be managed beyond the initial reaction fairly quickly.

Episodic acute stress is experienced by people whom we refer to as “worry warts”, “Type A personalities”, or people “with lots of nervous energy”. These are the individuals who can feel the short bursts of anxiety, anger, or other negative emotions frequently. To prevent health issues and to effectively manage stress, their habits need to be changed.

Chronic stress destroys bodies, minds and lives. It also harms our DNA.

Here are a few examples of stressful situations in the workplace and life:

  • You work with a team of people with different skill levels on a big project that is just not moving along fast enough. You can potentially experience unpleasant emotions, such as tension, frustration, or annoyance.

  • Your boss is consistently giving you projects at the last minute to complete. You can start feeling miserable or distressed if this happens over an extended period in time.

  • A person has a dramatic life changing event, such as spouse passing or another extremely negative event, similar to a violent crime. He or she can experience Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

As a result of any of the above situations, we can feel anxiety, sleeplessness, and nightmares. These complex emotions produce certain behavioral responses to your thinking and your physical feelings ("Introduction to Psychology", 2010). If you have these negative emotions for prolonged periods, and your body can’t adjust and respond appropriately to reduce stress, then the harm to your health could be significant!

There are a few different ways you can manage stress...find what works best for you.

  1. Express your feelings and talk to someone you trust.

  2. Start a journal and write down your thoughts. It works for some people.

  3. Try hanging out with the positive crowd. The positive people will eliminate most stressors from your life. Misery loves company, so be mindful of who you surround yourself with - uplifting and positive people or complainers.

  4. Try practicing the method called emotional regulations, which takes time to master, but could be beneficial to how you react to unpleasant events.

  • Emotion regulation is our ability to successfully control our reaction to stress. Our initial emotional response to stress is very useful, because it warns us about the potential danger so we can respond to it. When the emotions get out of control, they can adversely impact our behaviors therefore leading to negative consequences.

  • Breathe or count to 10 before responding. People who are able to regulate their emotions understand the benefits of assessing the situation and waiting to react immediately in order to receive small and immediate rewards in exchange for receiving large but later rewards ("Introduction to Psychology", 2010).

  1. If nothing helps, consider contacting a doctor.

No matter how tough life gets, don’t give up, as there is a way to get help. Some people try to ignore (or appear to ignore) the worries, anxieties, or even depression. Scientists actually determined that suppressing your feelings and ignoring them is not an effective approach at all. Be well and take care of your stress as soon as possible.

Contact us to help you in finding strategies to lead a productive work and personal life, set and achieve challenging goals.

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