At the risk of making you feel stressed-out, stress is a potential killer. Stress can cause a heart attack, stroke, anxiety, depression, headaches, and more. The good news is that most stress is external; that is, caused by things you can potentially control.
While you have no say in some aspects of life that make your heart race and your fists clench, it is possible to decide whether to let them get to you this way. Stressful responses like anger are secondary emotions which can and should be controlled or let out in appropriate ways. All some people need are a few good ideas.
What Is Stress?
This is one part physiological, many parts emotional. Everyone knows a person who is always in crisis mode but seems to be living the average life with no reason to exist on red alert all the time.
This person seeks out crisis and trouble because they give life meaning, even if he or she is unaware of this dangerous cycle. People stop responding when the friend or family member cries wolf yet again; cease to feel or express sympathy about the next bit of bad news. Identity is wrapped-up in this lifestyle.
Many people overreact, jump to conclusions, or become angry all the time. An initial reaction to someone’s comment or behavior can be re-directed, but so often people choose to let unnecessarily stressful feelings consume them. Their mental health suffers, especially as they berate themselves emotionally for their responses.
Stress is also potentially a physiological response like the life-saving fight or flight reaction to danger. In this case, adrenaline courses through a person’s bloodstream and leads him or her to safety. It’s a good thing, but not all the time.
Adrenaline shouldn’t last, and the body will stop producing it if someone’s life is consistently thrilling or dangerous. Another chemical response to stress affects hormones determining your state of mind: anxiety, depression, or contentment. These are frequently triggered by events but also stem from genetics. Some people are born predisposed to anxiety.
How to Prevent and Manage Stress
Stressful situations include illness, divorce, death, moving house, and conflict. If you can prepare ahead of time to reduce tension, cut back on optional commitments. Engage support from trusted sources. Leave yourself extra time to handle unexpected mishaps and questions. Leave room to breathe rather than filling every spare minute with expectations and responsibilities.
If you get to enjoy some breathing room, don’t take it for granted. Use these opportunities to fill your tank: spend time with friends, get some exercise, pray, write in your journal, or catch up on the movies and TV shows you missed. Life will throw a few curve balls that cause those margins to fill up eventually for a short or long period of time.
Don’t isolate; be aware of a core group of people who should be notified during difficult times. They will ease your troubles just by making you feel connected. An email or text at the right time reminds a person others are out there for support. Make sure these are positive individuals, not the “cry wolf” sort described above.
If you are crying all the time or experience panic attacks where you suddenly can’t breathe properly and feel like running for the hills, talk to your doctor. Don’t be ashamed of anxiety.