If you have followed my stuff for a while, you’ll know the top story here. Chronic stress, ie staying in a state of high alert for extended periods of time, is not going to do your health much good, and will lead to all kinds of conditions ranging from migraines and gastrointestinal disorders to type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
A number of studies have confirmed this, as Ray Kurzwell and Terry Grossman write in their book: Transcend: 9 Steps to Living Well Forever:
‘Stress with no constructive outlet can lead to anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, substance abuse, compulsive eating, gambling and sexual activity. Perhaps most important, chronic stress accelerates the aging process’
When you’re stressed you get a constant stimulation of the fight, flight or freeze response. This is when your body triggers the stress hormone Cortisol (among other things). Cortisol released continuously in the bloodstream can lead to serious health issues down the line, because often there is no way to release or burn off the chemicals.
Modern life is stressful. From being stuck in a traffic jam, to having a child that ‘just won’t listen’, to an upcoming important meeting that you haven’t time to prep for. We’re constantly worrying about what’s coming up next, and what might happen.
You may not be aware of the cortisol being released, that’s the science bit- so an easier place to start would be to identify the main stressors in your life.
Take this short stress test quiz to find out how stressed you are
However, when I look at the most popular ways of relieving stress, many of them tend to focus on short-term fixes. Let me highlight what they are so that you can avoid or minimise them, bearing in mind that immediate gratification could lead to big pay back in the future.
Here are 4 ways NOT to Deal with Stress.
- Eat lots of sugary foods. Eating an excessive amount of high sugar, high calories in processed foods such as ice-cream, cakes,and so on. The short-term pleasure will not help address the underlying problem and could make things worse by leading to weight gain, and related conditions, and the stress that comes with this situation. To find out how much sugar you’re consuming, take the Sugar Quiz.
- Smoke cigarettes. Again, smoking will provide temporary relief from feelings of stress, but, just like borrowing money from the bank, this debt needs to be paid back at some point in the future. The effects of smoking tobacco has been documented for years, and yet despite the antismoking campaigning, the ban on advertising; the ban of smoking in public spaces, and so on; The World Health Organization estimates that the global yearly death toll as a result of tobacco use is currently 6 million! (You should also come off any substitutes such as patches or e-cigarettes – just because you’re not lighting up doesn’t mean vaping is a healthy habit!)
- Drink alcohol. I have no issue with alcohol. In fact, studies show that some consumption can deliver a number of health benefits if used in moderation. The big problem is that everyone’s interpretation of ‘moderation’ is completely different; and alcohol is addictive and can lead to abuse which, again, will make things a whole lot worse.
- Drink lots of caffeine. Coffee is readily available and widely integrated into our society; but like alcohol, whilst small amounts can be beneficial, helping you concentrate, stay awake, if taken in excess, there are considerable downsides including poor sleep, headaches and digestive disorders, often creating a vicious circle just to get through a day.
None of us are perfect, and the goal isn’t to be perfect, it is to do more good things than bad. But you can’t fix things unless you know the root causes.
Stress is different for everyone
A major stressor to one person, is a huge motivator to another. Just think about jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool. Can you swim? There’s no issue at all if you can – you will be eager to launch yourself in. But what if you can’t? You will be on the side, fearful, afraid to move, and the cortisol will be flowing!
So, it’s good to know what your stressors are, and then you can decide the choices you have for managing stress – they will be different for everyone. Overall, many of the coping strategies come down to the way you live your life, i.e. the activities of your life, and your outlook on life, i.e. your ‘attitude’.
Plus, in terms of solutions, we are all different and success in life is often put down to achieving balance. Balance between your work, family/friends and self. But achieving balance requires good time management and discipline; and even then, at times, things will get out of balance, but that’s OK if it’s short-term.
In previous posts, I have talked a lot about what you can do to optimise your life, manage stress and avoid overwhelm including how to find balance and how to identify what your stressors are. You can find links to these previous posts at the foot of this post.
So start by finding out what’s causing
your stress by taking the Stress Quiz
If you’re interested in reading more, here are the links to other articles that I mentioned.
You can get a copy of my new book Success Without Stress which will help you to not only understand the effects of stress on the body, but is full of useful tips to help you build your stress resilience by creating your very own stress resilience toolkit.
Or buy a Kindle copy
(UK hard copy is highly recommended if you want to share with your team at work.)
By the end of the book, you will be in more control of your stress management. Discover:
What stress is and how it affects our bodies
How to identify the specific stressors in your life, so that you can take steps to reduce them
How to track and measure your stress levels to get early warning signs
How to spot the signs of stress in other people
The 50 healthy habits you can incorporate into your life to prevent burnout