Find Your Happy Place

Who isn’t stressed nowadays? It’s a safe bet that everyone you know has complained about feeling stressed at one time or another.

What Is Stress?

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Your brain is hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This has been called the "fight-or-flight" response.

When the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal relaxed state. However, the pace of modern life can mean that your alarm system rarely shuts off.  If your stress-response system is constantly “switched on,” this can disrupt almost all your body's processes.

This can lead to serious health problems over time, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment

Manage Your Stress

Stress management can give you a range of tools to reset your alarm system. The first step in successful stress relief is to monitor your stress level.

The next step is to identify your stress triggers. When do you experience the most stress? Some causes of stress are easy to spot, such as job pressures, relationship problems or financial difficulties. But other daily demands, such as commuting, caring for family members or being overworked, also can contribute to your stress level. Even positive events can be stressful, like getting married, starting a new job or buying a new house. 

Once you've identified your stress triggers, you can develop strategies to deal with them. Identifying what aspect of the situation you can control is a good starting point. Sometimes you may be able to remove the stressor. At other times, you may only be able to change how you react to the situation.

Many people benefit from practicing stress-reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, massage, tai chi or yoga. Others manage stress by practicing mindfulness in meditation or being in nature.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle also helps manage stress — eat healthy, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Relaxation techniques are an essential part of stress management. With the demands of work and life, you may put relaxation low on your priority list. But everyone needs to make time to relax and recharge.

Other ways to manage stress can include taking time for hobbies, fostering healthy relationships, having a sense of humor and volunteering in the community. 

Stress won't disappear from your life. But by practicing stress management techniques, you can increase your ability to deal with life’s challenges.