How Do We Handle Stress?

Stress is part of our everyday life. Stress includes anything that troubles us, puts us under pressure, feels like a tight spot, and worries us, makes us anxious, or tense. Everyone has the days where we make a plan for what we expect to happen and everything goes wrong. Circumstances and situations can be out of our control. When this happens, our bodies have a chemical response to stressors. It looks like an analogy of a caveman who encountered a tiger. The caveman is faced with fighting the tiger, attempting to run to safety, or simply shutting down. This is known as fight, flight, or freeze. In our modern-day world, we do not face the same kinds of challenges as the caveman however, our brains have a tendency to react in a very similar way to our perceived threats. This can come from trying to juggle all our responsibilities in life. Or can look like work expectations, family trouble, health issues, concerns about the future, loneliness, relational conflict, etc. The list can go on forever. This stress affects our wellness and wellbeing every day.

Studies have shown that stress touches everyone. Here are a few to paint the picture:

  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress.

  • US businesses lose up to $300 billion yearly as a result of workplace stress.

  • Stress causes around one million workers to miss work every day.

  • Only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance.

  • Depression leads to $51 billion in costs due to absenteeism and $26 billion in treatment costs.

  • Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly.

Stress is everywhere. At the end of the day, the only thing we can control is what we do and how we respond to the situations in our lives.


So what do we do about stress?

First there are things we can do proactively to help prevent and protect us when we eventually face stressors. These simple habits can preemptively set us up to handle stress better because our physical bodies are in a state of optimal work.

Six simple habits:

  1. Eat a balanced diet- nutrition helps our bodies perform at their best. This is hard to do if we only feed ourselves food void of nutrients. We need real food to help fuel our bodies

  2. Get your body moving- even a 5 minute walk a day can help our body and mind be at it’s best. (See previous blog on exercise and the brain)

  3. Get good sleep- Sleep is important to bring restoration to our bodies. And many times sleep is the “turn it off and turn it back on” strategy to help us think clearer when we have a problem.

  4. Have an outlet to express yourself- music, art, dance, writing, exercising- whatever works for you to let you release tension and energy.

  5. Prayer and gratitude- prayer is a great outlet to help us find a mindful place. And when we recall all the things we are thankful and grateful for, it helps us have perspective over how bad things may truly be.

  6. Take a break- rest is important for all of us. No one is invincible, we all need space to recover and restore our soul, mind, and body.


Also there are so many other habits we can add in our lives, these are just a few. I know these six things sound easy and simple. They are simple! But it is not always easy for us to implement them in our lives. We have to have the mindset of imputing small intentional habits in our lives that help us 1% every day. 1% adds up to a lot over time.


What do we do at the moment stress feels overwhelming?


Breathe.

Breathing is the best tool we have at the moment to calm our body down. When we are stressed and have the sympathetic response of fight, flight, or freeze our body reacts. Our heart rate increases, our mouths get dry, and our hands can feel clammy. First thing first. Breathe.


Box breathing is a simple exercise to do:

  1. Step 1: Breathe in counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.

  2. Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.

  3. Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.

  4. Step 4: Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel re-centered.




This is a simple exercise to help regulate your body and bring your heart rate down. It’s not complicated and it’s a tool you can use anywhere at any time.

Life is not always easy, but there are some simple things we can use to help us thrive in life- not just survive. May our days be lighter and our hearts find gratitude in the midst of all the chaos around us.


References:

https://www.stress.org/42-worrying-workplace-stress-statistics-2

https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/stress-management/box-breathing.htm

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