April is National Stress Awareness Month, but any month is a great time to talk about stress. The World Health Organization calls stress the “Health Epidemic of the 21st Century” and we all deal with it, in one way or another, on a daily basis.
There are 2 kinds of stress: acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is what you feel when you look into your rearview mirror and see those flashing red lights. Sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, and your stomach doing little flip flops are the usual symptoms of acute stress and generally, they pass pretty quickly. Acute stress is not the kind of stress that normally impacts our health.
Chronic stress is another matter entirely. Often caused by things like money worries, relationship issues, work-related pressures, and parenting problems (just to name a few), the effects of chronic stress are much more serious, often resulting in adrenal fatigue, depression, panic attacks, high blood pressure, and over time even heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, Those are the type of conditions that can drastically impact our health and our quality of life.
Chronic stress may also cause the following:
- Increased inflammation
- Decreased sex hormones
- Decreased nutrient absorption
- Increased immune problems, skin disorders, and digestive distress
So what can we do about stress? Well, there’s no way to eliminate it entirely from our lives, but there are small steps you can take to help you manage how it affects you.
3 Tips to Manage Chronic Stress
1. Relinquish control.
When you stop worrying about the things you cannot control, you’re giving your body and your mind a break. Realize that you can only control yourself; you can’t control your spouse, your children, or your co-workers. Realize that you can control the way you respond to others, and that this can most certainly help you manage stress levels in your life.
2. Let go of perfection.
Does your house have to be spotless? All the laundry done? Dishes put away? Everything in its place? I, too, love a clean and organized home (and office, and car, and…), but I’ve learned that it’s not worth stressing myself out to make my environment perfect.
Recently my sister and her husband stopped by my home unexpectedly. There were a few dishes in the sink, my kitchen floor hadn’t been mopped recently, and the dogs’ toys were everywhere. This is not the way I like guests to see my home, but I let go of the perfection. I realized that no one but me was concerned about my “messy house”, and this allowed me to visit with my family and enjoy our time together without stressing about the things that weren’t “perfect”.
3. Recognize it.
When you feel yourself starting to get stressed out, recognize it and take a break. Go for a walk. Meditate. Call a friend. Play with your dog. Do something – anything – to distract yourself for a few minutes. This gives your body and mind a chance to slow down and refocus, and that’s never a bad thing.
There are many things in life that are beyond our control. We’re never going to be able to completely rid ourselves of the things that stress us out, but if we learn how to manage the things that we can control, we can ease some of the pressure that stress puts on our bodies and minds.
What’s your favorite way to manage chronic stress?
Feel free to tell me all about it in a comment below, or connect with me on social media to join the conversation!