By Tony Jackson
It’s true. Everyone has life stressors they deal with; from children to the elderly, stress is a daily factor in every individual’s life. Stress is considered the number one health problem in America. We are built to deal with some stress, but facing it each and every day takes a toll on our physical and mental health. Stress weakens our bodies, and if not dealt with in a healthy and effective way, it can lead to depression, anxiety, heart disease, and cancer. So, it is important to recognize what causes each of us to stress out so much.
Relationships probably make the largest demand on our bodies; when they aren’t healthy, neither are we. Whether an unhealthy relationship is with a spouse, child, parent or someone at work, the resulting stress can be so close and damaging that it will take a toll on your body and mind. Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses are all major results of stress. Taking time to work on your relationships, whether at home or work, can be very beneficial. Knowing when to cut off a relationship or take a break is critical to managing your health and head. Building a foundation of communication and trust early with your children will help them with relational skills with you, at school, and personally.
Being stressed about your health often causes your health to be poor. Funny how that works, and it makes you wonder which came first, the stress or the health problem. When you consider everything a major illness can impact, including finances, missed work, and relationships, you realize a health issue is more serious than what you first thought. Plus, how can you manage your stress if your body is already fighting a major battle? Having health care is comforting, but many people in this world are still burdened with how to pay for themselves or their child if they get sick, which leads us to another major stressor, finances.
Most, if not all, couples fight about finances, but, financial issues are not restricted to couples. If you don’t worry about finances and manage your money perfectly or you have an endless supply, that is fantastic. However, that’s not a reality for most of us, and the number one cause of divorce is money issues. It is frightening to think about not being able to pay rent or pay for food, let alone being able to get your child a Christmas or birthday present. Even if these fears never come to fruition, the mental toll of worrying can lead to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and well, you get the point.
How about our careers? I’m sure we are all satisfied with the amount of money we make, have amazing bosses, and feel like we are living up to our true potentials, so no stress there. Well, that CAN be true. I have talked to people who enjoy their work and like being there, and even some who think of it as a break from their personal lives. That’s great for those people, but if that doesn’t describe you, fear not, because you’re not alone – not even close. Numbers show that jobs can be considerably more stressful than finances or relationships, and my personal experience aligns with this. If this isn’t the case for you, then you manage work well. However, most of us face stress from our careers at some point, whether from being treated unfairly, carrying a huge workload, or from work relationships. And, a whole different set of stressors exist for people sending out resumes and trying to get back into the workforce.
Finally, life at home is very stressful: what to have for dinner, getting the kids ready in the morning, completing chores, and managing a home or apartment is a lot, and then there’s the relationship you have with whomever you share your abode. Then out of nowhere, the water heater goes out. You got a new dog that chews everything up and needs training, plus he threw up all over your bed at 2am, and you rolled over in it. Your daughter came home from school and told you she has a big project due she forgot about, but she’s really sad because her friends wouldn’t play with her at recess. I could come up with millions of scenarios about home stressors, and so could you, and something would still happen that we’d never anticipated.
So, being able to recognize where your stress lies is, oh, so important. You will never avoid being stressed out completely, so learning to manage it will prove extremely helpful. Taking care of your body is one effective way of dealing with stress; if your body is weak, stress will consume you. However, if you are strong like a bull, you can swat away those stressors with a “tough as nails” immune system. Taking care of your body includes a healthy diet, plenty of rest, and not making matters worse by drinking so much that you put off the worry until the next day. Exercise is a great way to relieve your body of stress and it keeps your body and mind sharp, including a walk or a run (keep in mind that you don’t have to run a marathon). It’s better to adopt the attitude that it’s okay if you cannot get your exercise in one day, because you don’t need the stress that comes from worrying about it; picking it back up the next day will be fine. Stretching is another great releaser of tension that may be building inside you. And, being prepared ahead of time reduces stress greatly: have lunches ready and clothes laid out the night before, make a list of what needs to be done during the week, have meals ready to go for each day. Do this on Sunday, and you’ve reduced possible stressors, leaving you ready to say, “Bring it on Monday!”
So, STOP AND BREATHE! Seriously, do it now! Sit up, use great posture, fill your lungs with glorious oxygen, and push it down into your gut. Do this numerous times a day, every day. Lay down for a few moments. Treat your mind and body right, and they will repay you by helping you be the best you can be to deal with whatever comes your way.