Do you ever worry about work, even when you’re not working? Do you have trouble sleeping at night because your mind is racing? Do you ever get “road rage” while driving because you have so many other things on your mind?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, then you might have too much stress in your life. But, don’t worry: you’re not alone! Millions of Americans today report that they feel stressed about one or more areas of their lives.
Experts now think that how you deal with stress is more important than whether or not you have to deal with stressful situations. If you want to learn more about stress and how to cope with it, then this article is for you.
What exactly is stress?
When people use the word “stress” they often mean different things. Stress can refer to feelings of worry, anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, or just not knowing how things are going to turn out.
It’s important for you to know that these are normal feelings. Stress is a part of everyday life. Maybe you’re running late because of a traffic jam, you’re not sure you’ll be able to pay all of your bills this month, or you’ve got a meeting at work with a difficult person.
The first step in dealing with feelings of stress is to accept that sometimes, things won’t go your way. There’s no point in adding more worry to your plate by being stressed about having stress in your life!
Is stress bad for you?
This might be a little scary to hear, but, yes, stress can be bad for your health. Many scientific studies have looked at this question, and they found that too much stress is not good for you.
For example, one study found that having a very stressful life event can increase your heart attack risk. Stressful life events include losing a job, having a major illness or injury, divorce, or death of a loved one.
Other studies have found that people with high stress levels don’t recover as well or as fast from surgery, illness, or injury. After having a heart attack, people who report high levels of sadness or worry are more likely to have another problem with their heart, or say that they have a poor quality of life. People who have a lot of stress in their lives are also more likely to say that they have chronic pain, that they don’t sleep well, and that they feel unhappy.
What’s the right way to deal with stress?
When it comes to dealing with stress, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. The wrong way is by using unhealthy habits to make yourself feel better, such as eating too much, smoking, or using alcohol or drugs.
Here are some simple tips from the experts at the American Heart Association that you can use to help manage the stress in your life in a healthy way:
- Get regular exercise—physical activity can help calm your mind.
- Talk to friends and family about your problems. The people you care about care about you too—ask for help when you need it.
- Get enough sleep every night; the earlier, the better. Being tired makes it harder to deal with stress. And, sleeping more during the day than at night can have negative effects on your body’s ability to use insulin, digest foods, and regulate emotions.
- Learn how to relax through deep breathing, meditation, prayer or yoga.
- Remember that stress is a normal part of life—try to accept the fact that sometimes bad things will happen to you, rather than spending time thinking about how it could be different.
- Enjoy life! Read a book, take a walk, play with your kids or your pets. Putting a smile on your face is a great way to make stress melt away.
- Stay away from unhealthy habits, like smoking and alcohol use, as a way to deal with your problems.
- Focus on one problem at a time. Life can seem overwhelming if you are trying to fix everything at once.
- Consider joining a support group or talking with a counselor.
Having stress in your life is normal, and you won’t be able to stop it. So, the best thing to do is to learn how to deal with it in a healthy and effective way. Plus, the sooner you start setting up healthy patterns for dealing with small problems, the better you’ll be able to cope with major events when they come along.
If you have any questions about what you read here, or if you think you need help dealing with stress, talk with your healthcare provider at your next office visit.