How to manage the negative and use the positive aspects of stress
At its essence, stress is a built-in reaction to danger. In today’s world, most of us don’t have to deal with dangers that our ancestors have faced.
We don’t need to worry about wild animals tearing us to shreds, we don’t need to worry about starting a fire because we would otherwise freeze to death, and we don’t need to worry about finding a good settlement with rich soil and a water source nearby.
However, tens of thousands of years of evolution cannot be rooted out from us in a mere 100-200 years. Although today we are living in a safer world, we have our necessities met, and we don’t have to worry that we might become dinner for a saber-toothed tiger, our bodies still react to stress in the same way.
Your body cannot distinguish between a bear chasing you and your boss yelling at you. So when a stressful situation occurs, your body starts producing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which put you in a fight-or-flight mode.
Now, as you can imagine, acute stress is valuable to us. It has helped us survive and thrive as a species. However, when the stress that you’re experiencing is constant, the fight-or-flight mode never turns off, your health and mental well-being take a hit.
As a result, you become short-tempered and pessimistic, cannot sleep well, lose appetite, and some people even resort to drugs and alcohol to deal with the situation.
Aside from that, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can lead to some health problems:
• Heart disease;
• Cognitive impairment;
• Anxiety and depression;
• Weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure;
To avoid these negative effects, we must learn to deal with stress healthily. Sure, a few drinks of hard liquor every night might make you feel better and forget your worries, but that often leads to alcoholism.
It all starts with perception. How you perceive something is how it is. For example, say that your car breaks down. How do most people react?
“******* PIECE OF **** CAR!”
Then the train of negative thoughts start creeping in:
“Now I’ll have to take un reliable public transportation every day!”
“I have to wake up earlier for work!”
“This old piece of crap car is breaking down every month!”
But this is neither helpful nor productive. Instead, in a situation like this, we should try to remain as calm as possible and see things in perspective:
“Well, my car broke down, but it’s been almost flawless in the past two years.”
“I’ll need to take public transportation, but it’s not that bad. Lots of people commute that way, and I’ll surely have a new appreciation for my car once I get it back.”
A simple tweak in the way we perceive something can make a difference as big as night and day.
Aside from that, we can employ different tactics that help us manage stress better.
An excellent habit worth looking into is meditation. A very old practice with a proven record of helping people unwind, become calmer and more collected individuals.
Another way to battle stress is to sleep enough. This might sound simple, but how many hours are you sleeping every night? If it’s less than seven on a consistent basis, you need to make it a priority.
Other good ways to help reduce the stress in your life and become more fulfilled are:
- • Make exercise a daily habit.
- • Improve your nutrition. More whole foods, less packaged and processed stuff.
- • Take up a hobby and make time for it at least once a week.
- • Socialize with positive and energetic people.
- • Volunteer in your community.
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