By Allan Bucka Jones
PRIDE Health Columnist
It is the start of a new year, the end of the holiday season. A couple of weeks ago, we were occupied with making numerous decisions…from gift buying, wrapping and distribution to interaction with many family and friends, plus getting our minds and houses in order to face the year 2016.
Many of us purchased stuff on credit, and the bill paying time is fast approaching. This ends up causing great stress, especially for those of us with limited financial resources.
Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
There is enough evidence to suggest that many of the diseases and sicknesses faced by us, is stress related. Cancer, the big killer, is linked to stress.
Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life, and many Canadians experience challenges with stress at some point during the year, but more so at the end of one year, and at the start of another.
So what causes our stress? Remember that our brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for our protection. When the brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This has been labeled the “fight-or-flight” response. Once the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal relaxed state. Unfortunately, the nonstop stress of modern life means that your alarm system rarely shuts off.
Stress management is therefore important. It gives us a range of tools to reset our alarm system.
Without stress management, the body is always on high alert. Over time, high levels of stress can lead to serious health problems. Do not wait until stress has a negative impact on your health, relationships or quality of life. Start practicing a range of stress management techniques today.
The first step in successful stress relief is deciding to make stress management an ongoing goal, and to monitor your stress level.
Once you start monitoring your stress level, the next step is identifying what triggers your stress. When or under what situations do you experience the most stress? Some causes of stress are easy to identify, such as holiday season anxieties, job pressures, relationship problems or financial difficulties. But daily hassles and demands, like commuting, arranging child care or being overcommitted at work, can also contribute to your stress level.
Positive events can also be stressful. For example, if you got engaged, married, started a new job or bought a new house, you could have a high stress level. While negative events in general are more stressful, be sure to also assess the positive changes in your life.
Once your stress triggers are identified, you can start thinking about strategies for dealing with them. Identifying what aspect of the situation you can control is a good starting point.
For example, if you have a difficult time falling asleep because you are stressed out, the solution may be as easy as turning off the TV when the news is too distressing. Other times, such as high demands at work, or when a loved one is ill, you may only be able to change how you react to the situation.
Remember to seek help and support from family and friends. You may want to ask them what stress-relief techniques have worked well for them. However, your number one support should come from your family doctor, so keep in close contact with your doctor, and make notes for your discussion and interaction.
Many people benefit from daily practice of stress-reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, massage, tai chi or yoga. Some people manage stress through meditation or being in nature. Religion and the reading of holy books have proven to be a valuable stress reducer for many of us.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps to manage stress. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes five times a week) and get adequate sleep.
Stress will not disappear from your life, and stress management is not an overnight cure. However, you can learn to manage your stress level and increase your ability to cope with life’s challenges.
Best wishes for a stress-free, healthy and productive 2016.
Allan Bucka Jones is a Health Promoter and Broadcaster. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.