Stress is part of each and every person’s life. It manifests itself in many different forms and ways. If we didn’t have stress we might never take any action period. We would all probably be extremely lazy people without concern, drive or motivation to do something great!
Of course, there’s good stress and bad stress. Good stress provides a boost of energy and adrenaline. Bad stresses have the opposite effect and can even alter our genes if it’s chronic enough.
Stress takes shape in many forms and in our society it’s so constant that it has become an epidemic!
Have you ever heard someone or yourself say, “You are driving me crazy.”? What they’re trying to say is you’re stressing them out and they’re not capable of handling it properly at that moment or at all.
I bet there’s a few of you that have family, friends and/or co-workers you’d like to say that too. I know my hand is raised!
So, let’s dissect stress and get down to the core. I believe it’s necessary to understand the problem before you can deal with it properly.
There’s a quote that sums up stress well.
“Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.” – Richard Carlson
I agree with Richard. We’ve become accustomed to a new normal in a society that promotes high stress and even welcomes it. We often drive ourselves crazy when we cannot deal with stressful situations.
What is Stress and Why You Should Be Aware
Stress triggers what’s called “fight-or-flight”. It is what causes a rush of energy and adrenaline to kick in when we need to run from a wild animal or when avoiding an oncoming car crossing the boundary.
This is the way God designed it. However, because our society considers it normal and so much of what’s consumed visually and audibly is riddled with it, we tend to stay in fight-or-flight mode.
By never taking steps to purge negativity, worry, concern, (plug yours in here), we are only pouring more stress into our internal buckets which have a limit. Once that limit is reached, and it’s different for each individual, the bucket overflows, and chronic disease forms. These diseases are some of the worst and hardest to deal with and bring back into remission if it’s just a flare up.
Let’s take Crohn’s disease as an example. I recently read that 1 out of every 8 people will develop Crohn’s disease. There are other factors involved for some. However, stress is most commonly the primary factor for its development.
Cancer, another perfect example. People claim “it came out of nowhere” and yet they are the picture of health. They eat well and exercise religiously. But then they develop cancer. One word, stress!
It’s estimated that 90% of all doctors visits can be attributed to stress.
You must take an honest look at your lifestyle and evaluate your level of stress in all areas now. Don’t wait for a chronic disease to force you into submission.
How the Effects of Stress Manifests Itself
The effects of stress can take many forms on and in the body. It’s linked to weight gain, heart disease, and depression. Not to mention it increases the risk of arthritis, hypertension, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Studies show that long-term stress impairs brain function, reducing memory, creativity, and problem-solving skills.
Other ways stress manifests itself
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleeping disorders
- Addictive behaviors
- Weight gain
- Heart disease
- Impaired brain function
- Reduced memory
- Reduced creativity
- Reduced problem-solving skills
- Suppresses immune system
- Slows metabolism
- Slows cell regeneration
- Muscle tension
- And so much more!
Stress Reduction Put into Action
Stress might be a cultural normal today. It that doesn’t mean we should accept it and ignore the long-term effects on your health.
We need to take daily actionable, purposeful steps to reduce stress in our lives.
Use the following list of de-stressing methods and activities as a guide. Combine them or just use one or two. Whatever works best for you. But overall, just start taking steps!
Top 13 Ways to Kick Stress
- Quiet time with meditation and prayer
- This is critical to my routine and the foundation for the following 12 methods. Each morning I wake up at 6 AM (before anyone is awake in the house) to limit distraction and disruption. I head down to my office and leave my smartphone and technology off. I then close my eyes, sit in silence for a moment and then begin thinking of all that I’m grateful for. This sets my mind into de-stress mode almost immediately. I then jump right into prayer for 5-10 minutes, followed by reading my Bible and using this method of studying. The goal here is to read words that inspire you and bring you joy.
- Get adequate sleep
- Recent studies show that the brain uses your sleep time as a method of “taking out the trash” and cleansing it of harmful toxins. Don’t burn the candle at both ends. Instead of staying up late next time, get some sleep and move that item/chore to the next day. You’ll be much more productive and the job will get done better! If not, you’re at risk for weight gain, increased stress and mood swings. (Been there done that!)
- Schedule time, at least once a week but preferably daily, for relaxation. Do something you love like your favorite hobby, book or maybe a movie night or date night with your spouse. Schedule it and stick to it. It should be sacred!
- Take deep breaths
- I used to think this was ridiculous and useless. Now that I’ve been practicing it for awhile I can only confirm that it in fact works! When harnessed correctly, breathing can do far more than supply your cells with oxygen. The way you breathe — whether fast or slow, shallow or deep — sends messages to your body that affect your mood, your stress levels, and even your immune system.
- Learn to say “NO”
- I know what you’re thinking but I’m telling you, it’s OK! I live by the saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” which aligns perfectly with another which is “if you can’t make a decision, someone will make it for you”. So learn to say no when you’re spread thin and need help. Stop trying to be a superhero.
- No, not that kind of drink. I am referring to another drink which can relax you. Green, black and herbal teas that include chamomile can certainly relax you from the inside out. I opt for green tea during the day but at night it’s ginger and chamomile before bed.
- Take a walk
- Try to walk before, during and after a stressful event or situation. A therapeutic walk will help your body release excess built-up adrenaline and anxiety. What follows is a calmness that you need.
- Exercise regularly
- Exercising regularly helps the body lower cortisol level, the main stress hormone, along with sweating out toxins and built-up tension. I recommend the following methods to start with exercise.
- Cut caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
- These stimulants only add what I call false or nervous energy. Don’t mask stress with alcohol. You’ll find that the negative side effects will only increase, not decrease.
- Do stuff you enjoy with people you enjoy
- We all have something we love doing but how often do we really get out and do it these days? I know this is an area I continually work on and I notice the stress relief benefits immediately. Doing what you love to do is naturally relaxing!
- Serve Others
- There’s nothing better than lending a hand to someone that’s hurt, making dinner for a family in need are just two ways you can serve someone else other than yourself. Service is about everyone else and nothing of you. Often times this reminder alone is very relaxing.
- Learn to delegate
- If you’re a perfectionist like I am you need to learn how to automate your life. The only way to do that is to get out of your own way. I used to stress about getting the lawn cut before the neighbors started complaining. I never heard a complained but I also never wanted it to happen. I finally gave up and budgeted the amount needed to have my lawn cut on a schedule. This saves me 2-3 hours each week alone! (big yard) How much is your time worth?
- Evaluate and journal
- Continually evaluate your progress with de-stressing by pausing a reflecting during your morning quiet time. Spend time each night or morning journaling the events of the day and how stressed or relaxed it made you. You’ll quickly identify new areas of improvement and be able to measure your progress.
- Delete Toxic Relationships
- You know which relationships are toxic in your life. You must push the delete button on these relationships. They cause tremendous strife and stress and is anything but relaxing. Do the same with your job if you dread going in each day. It’s easier to find a new job than to fix your new chronic illness.
To conclude, we only covered a small subset of the damaging causes of stress and ways to reduce or kick it. We have only touched the surface. Doing a simple Google search for stress will turn up a whopping 651 million entries alone!
De-stressing your life and taking actionable steps is not as easy as making a list. I want you to know that, from personal experience, the only way to do this effectively you must make a plan that fits your lifestyle. However, be ready to change your lifestyle to match the plan. Don’t think you can just incorporate these strategies without making lifestyle changes or you’ll never reach your goal. You have to want REAL change in your life.
You may have noticed #13 on the list which is to evaluate and journal. I believe this is absolutely critical in order to keep yourself accountable and measure your progress.
Make your plan and share it with a friend, spouse or someone you trust. The more you talk about it, the better the accountability and the more results you’ll see.
My prayers are for you and with you as I know how difficult this area is. Stress kicked my tail for years and years and was the primary trigger for my autoimmune issues.
I want to leave you with two verses.
“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!” (NLT) Hebrews 10:35
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (NIV) Psalm 55:22
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