According to the latest research on stress, the most harmful form of stress is not the result of major life crises – the death of a spouse, divorce, the loss of a job – as once believed. While the stress associated with these events is often severe, it is also short-lived and therefore has little time to cause damage to our bodies.
Far worse, current research reports, is the chronic, uncontrolled low-level tension caused by our responses to the pressures and irritations of everyday life – such as difficulties at work or at home, anger, rejection, interruptions, being late for work, financial anxieties, arguing with a loved one, deadlines. Each little frustration that occurs throughout the day speeds the heart rate, dilates the pupils and floods the bloodstream with powerful hormones. In the long term, this uncontrolled low-level tension forces the body to go into overdrive, sapping our energy and damaging our physical and emotional health.
Breaking the grip of stress
Try some of these suggestions at home or at work to help you more effectively manage the stress in your life:
1. Talk it over – When tensions build up, discuss the problem with a close friend, a professional, or with the people involved.
2. Recognize the things that upset you – If something is increasing your stress, ask yourself, "Is there anything I can do to change the situation?" If there is, figure out what you can do. If not, find ways to accept this lack of control.
3. Practice deep breathing – Sit comfortably with your hands on your lap. Roll your head and hunch your shoulders up and down a few times. Next, breathe in evenly through your nose, then blow out gently through your mouth. On each exhale, silently repeat the word "peace" or "relax." Do this for 5 minutes, 3 times a day. This technique, known as the "relaxation response," has been proven to reduce blood pressure and lower stress.
4. Exercise regularly – Exercise for 30 minutes a day, at lease 3 times a week. As a way of working off tension and stress, nothing beats exercise. Activities such as walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, racquet sports, aerobic classes and dancing are the good choices to dissipate stress energy.
Your EAP is here to help: If excessive stress is negatively impacting your personal, work or family life, your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help you learn how to better handle the stress in your life. Why not call an EAP counselor today? We provide FREE and CONFIDENTIAL counseling, referrals and information to help you or your dependents meet life's challenges and difficulties.