As we grow older, we inevitably have to deal with a lot of stress in our lives. Most of us see that as a bad thing, but the nature and effects of stress will vary—and so do the particulars when it comes to creating an effective stress management plan. Here are some of the essential things to keep in mind.
Many people don’t realize that not all kinds of stress are the same. In general, you can differentiate stress into two types: acute and chronic. Both types of stress trigger our adaptive response in the face of uncertainty and change, but acute stress is temporary.
For example, if you play a game of pickup soccer on the weekend, it can get competitive and intense, but the stress goes away at the end of the day, allowing you to sit back in your custom spa at home and feel good and refreshed. By contrast, chronic stress doesn’t go away. An example is being reprimanded by your boss or getting into conflicts with colleagues at work. With these, your mind tends to linger on those events all day, and the prolonged stress response causes harm.
Develop a short-term response
Each individual can have their own unique response to situations. Not only could a specific event trigger stress for one person, but the level of stress evoked could also vary significantly for another. Therefore, specific strategies for dealing with anxiety tend to fail if you attempt to copy them blindly; what works for someone else might not work for you.
The broad pattern of the solution can be simple, but you have to personalize the details. First, you need to analyze the events of each day and identify your sources of stress. Then, develop (likely through trial and error) a short-term response that works for you. It could be as simple as focusing on your breathing or playing a game on your phone. What’s important is that it diverts your focus and prevents the mind from dwelling on the event, which is what leads to the chronic stress response.
Watch the diet
Creating a habit shift that attempts to tackle stress immediately after the trigger will help a lot in stifling chronic stress. But the stress response also involves various bodily systems and hormones. It can also increase the risk of inflammation or lead to a subconscious increase in food consumption.
Maintaining a healthy diet is not only a great lifestyle change but also helps to reduce the potential long-term effects of stress. Beans, cereals, and vegetables, for instance, are excellent sources of fiber that help balance the gut microbiome and overall digestion. While you’re at it, consider cutting down or eliminating the intake of alcohol and refined sugar, which tends to amplify the harmful effects of the chronic stress response.
Have a more strenuous lifestyle
Strategies for stress management tend to focus mostly on reducing the adverse effects, but recall that acute stress can be useful for you. It is the mechanism that allows us to respond to uncertainty, adapt, and move forward. The acute stress response increases motivation and reduces inflammation in the body. Introducing acute stressors such as exercise into your lifestyle will thus positively manage stress while also increasing your overall levels of health, vigor, and dynamism as an individual.
We know that excessive stress is harmful. But if properly managed it using these suggestions, not only will you mitigate the risks, but you can also channel it positively to enhance your living.