All of us experience stress at some time in our lives. And while stress can be a natural reaction to many of life’s challenges, prolonged periods of stress can impact your health and in some cases have serious consequences.
Studies have shown that the longer people suffer from work or interpersonal stress, the greater the chances of catching a cold or falling prey to other ailments. Research results also tell us that men who are highly stressed are more likely to have heart attacks or strokes.
And of course there is the toll on your personal relationships. Conflict can easily ensue as stress mounts. The risk of alienation becomes significant and can further exacerbate your stress.
Everyday, Ongoing Stress
A 1998 study by Carnegie Mellon psychologist Sheldon Cohen discovered that it’s not the big incidents like a death in the family or the loss of a job that cause the most stress. It’s the small, constant, everyday conflicts that increase the possibility of stress-related illness by 3 to 5 times.
You can reduce your stress level by taking a few small steps that will add up over time.
Get More Rest
Thousands of car accidents each year are caused by lack of sleep. On the other hand, a Rhode Island study demonstrated that students who got 35 more minutes of sleep than their peers, earned better grades. Adults need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night despite the fact that most of us only get about 6.7 hours.
One of the best ways to add sleep time is to go to bed earlier at night by about 10 to 15 minutes. Increase the time gradually by starting 5 minutes earlier at first and then adding another 5 minutes a week later and so on.
Do One Thing at a Time
Multi-tasking can be overrated. The more we try to squeeze in, the more frustrated we can become with unfinished business, the more mistakes we make and the less we really listen to each other. We’re so bound up in getting everything done that we lose sight of what’s important and rush down the path to burn out.
The best way to reduce stress and restore balance is to prioritize. Review what’s most important to you and put your physical and emotional energy into those activities. The rest will fall into place and in some cases, even fall off your list.
If quality time with your children ranks as a high priority, let your task list languish. The world will not crumble if you don’t make the bed today or get the vacuuming done. On the other hand you may have a great sense of satisfaction after an afternoon with your kids.
Are you stressed by a crowded work agenda? You might discover that reworking the schedule with your supervisor not only reduces your stress levels, but also improves the quality of your work.
Daily physical activity is the elixir of life. It reduces stress and helps us to sleep better. Exercise increases our energy and stamina while improving our self-esteem and outlook on life.
The National Institutes of Health recommend at least 30 minutes of activity each day. Note the key word “activity”. Just three 10-minute sessions of moderate activity a day will give you the same benefits as a 30-minute workout.
That means that taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the farthest point from your destination or dancing around the house all count towards stress reducing activity.
Whether you take the dog for a run, roller skate or mow the lawn, make sure you fit a total of 30 minutes exercise into each day. You’ll feel so much better.
Take Care of You
De-stress by reading a book, taking a walk, practicing deep breathing or by enjoying a warm bubble bath. Setting aside a little time each day for yourself can ease feelings of frustration, fatigue and stress. You’ll feel re-energized in as little as 15 minutes. But remember, there’s no need to rush it.
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