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The effects and Reducing Stress
Let’s talk about Stress! Better yet, lets take a minute and talk about the good and bad of it. Stress activation was originally designed for those instances when something unexpected happened. For example, early humans were hunters and gathers and during dangerous situations stress activation would kick in, also known as the “fight or flight” reflex. This activation or reflex would send a signal to the brain and the body would quickly act. However, on the flip side, if a stress or stressor is constant or regularly repeated then the stress activation never really stops, resulting in chronic stress. So, if chronic stress is caused by a stressor then what are stressors? A stressor is anything that leads to change because change is stressful for an organism. Today people are exposed to stress regularly and combating it has become a regular problem. Fortunately, there are several ways to effectively reduce stress in these three main areas: the workplace, at home, and in the environment.
Effects of Stress
Chronic Stress has been linked to several health problems, some of these include increased risk of heart attacks or strokes, delayed immune response to infections, and an increase in inflammation throughout the body. To understand this better let’s explain how chronic stress starts? Chronic stress comes from reoccurring pain, post traumatic memories, unemployment, family tension, poverty, child abuse, caring for a sick spouse or just living in a sketchy neighborhood. In addition, people that are unable to cope with stress will suffer from several disorders like anxiety, depression, irritability or low self-esteem. Consequently, these disorders can also lead to drug addiction, alcohol abuse, smoking and in extreme cases suicide. Chronic stress that isn’t managed can cause people to breakdown emotionally, mentally and physically.
Reducing Workplace Stress
The first and most common area of stress happens at work. Stressors in the workplace can include long work hours, an unhealthy work environment, overwhelming workloads and/or feeling undervalued on the job. In the latest quality of working life survey of 10,000 managers, 92% of managers state they work longer than their contracted hours; one more hour per day compared to 2012 or an extra 29 days a year unpaid. Think about this, if managers are working that many extra hours a year, what type of stress could that add to their employees? And how can workplace stress be reduced? First, when work becomes overwhelming, take a break. This could mean taking a walk, taking some time to meditate and if needed use vacation time that has been accrued. Another strategy is to not take work home or at least limit the amount of time spent on work at home. For instance, only check your email once or put your phone on silent if the job doesn’t require constant contact. And finally, if occupational stress is high talk to an occupational stress counselor, who specializes in managing workplace stress. After all, if stress in the workplace goes unmanaged then it will eventually spill over into other areas of a person’s life.
Reducing Stress at Home
Next and the second most common stress people face is in the home. Stressors at home can include a death or divorce, traumatic events such as abuse or illness, or life changes such as job loss or caring for a loved one. These types of stressors can put a strain on family relationships, disrupt or cause tension in the household, and may bring additional division or resentment into the home. For instance, a person who has just recently started taking care of a parent may feel overwhelmed with this new responsibility. Overcoming stress at home can be difficult and can vary depending on the situation, however, there are several ways available to reduce this type of stress. First and foremost is developing a healthy family structure which can be achieved through family meetings or discussions. These meeting can be a place to talk about problems or concerns and can even be a place for solving problems. Next, there are many classes, meetings, or groups available through local and government agencies that can help families adjust, cope, and/or manage stress in the household. These agencies can provide an unbiased or neutral meeting ground for people needing support outside the family. And finally, when coping with a traumatic event there are counselors and therapists that are specialized in areas like grieving and death, abuse and rape, substance abuse and alcoholism, etc. This method can bring peace, closure and healing to family members in situations that couldn’t be resolved through other methods. Dealing with stress in the home will prevent further distress, disruption or damage from occurring. Additionally, it will also prevent future instances of stress once a method of management is put into place for the family.
Reducing Stress caused by the Environment
Finally, the last area and the most overlooked area is environmental stress. Environmental stressors are caused by large catastrophic events, like wars, hurricanes or fire, but they can also be caused by unsafe neighborhoods, poverty-stricken areas, or places were the unemployment rate is high. However, what most people neglect to recognize are the stressors that can’t be seen but our bodies fight every day. This type of environmental stressor includes noise, pollution, and exposure to toxins or chemicals. Take chemical substances for instance, the EPA inventory now contains around 84,000 chemical substances that may exist in commerce. Additionally, as many as 150 chemicals can be found in homes and have been linked to allergies, birth defects, some cancers and even psychological disorders. Even worse is substances that are ingested into the body, like tobacco, tobacco smoke has been found to contain over 2500 chemical substances that are hazardous to health. Imagine how hard the body would have to fight in order to eliminate all those substances from a person who smokes regularly! Other types of daily exposure can include noise from alarm clocks, sirens, city lights, traffic, and construction noises such as cranes and hammers. All of these are considered stressors that are experienced daily and often overlooked. One of the easiest ways to begin reducing daily environmental stress is to eliminate chemicals in the home. There are several biodegradable cleaners on the market, as well as, other green friendly products that are not harmful to the body and don’t produce toxic vapors. Another common stressor that is overlooked is technology, these can include device screen exposure, noise from televisions and other electronic devices and alarms that disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle. To reduce exposure to this type of stress, set limits for screen time and turn off alarms whenever possible to allow the body to take a rest or allow the sleep-wake cycle to occur naturally. Just making a few of these changes can drastically reduce the impact stress has on the body.
Reduce Your Stress One thing at a Time!
According to the world health association (WHO), health is defined a as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” So if stress is a major component of one’s health, then finding better ways to manage stress makes sense. Many people are affected daily by stress and managing even the smallest contributors can improve well being and health. Furthermore, stress will continue to be a growing concern as more is learned about how stress affects the emotional, physical and mental well being of individuals. In conclusion the growing problem of chronic stress needs to be managed in the workplace, home and environment in as many ways as possible.