Chronic Stress Can Snatch Our Energy, Joy and Happiness. Are You Ready To Take It Back?
Stress Could Be Ruining Your Life
What life stresses are you allowing to steal your happiness, your health or your quality moments of life? We all have stress and truly, it is “just” a part of life. We all know that, but sometimes many of us allow stress to build up. When this happens, it can put a heavy strain on our immune system and other systems of the body.
Stress can literally change cells and even kill body cells. And as we all know, it is not just our physical health that can be part of this process, but also our mental and emotional state that can deteriorate to the point of general unhappiness or worse.
I am sure that you have heard it said that it is not so much the stresses we have in life, but our reaction to them. Said another way, the way we manage these stresses of life. And this is definitely true, but there are those who have more than their share of stresses, which could make it difficult for effective management. These are major stresses that may present themselves, one after another in a short period of time. When this happens, even a good stress management approach can be tested.
Stress Hurts, But Where Did It Come From?
So, what are the typical life stresses that create a high degree of stress for most people? Below is a typical measurement used with 1 being less true and 5 being mostly true. Now some of the answers are absolute, but there may be some variance specific to your situation. For example, the first one is death of close family member in the last 12 months. Maybe it occurred 14 months ago, but you are still adjusting to that loss, so maybe you wouldn’t score a 5, but maybe, depending on how you feel about this still, maybe a 3. And for those pet lovers, who consider their pets like family, this can be included in this. Go through the list and see how you fare. The scale key is below. As mentioned, 1 is Less True, 5 is Mostly True
1 2 3 4 5 A close family member died in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I moved to a new town in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I changed jobs in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 My son/daughter left home in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 A close friend/family member who is ill depends on you for care.
1 2 3 4 5 I’ve had a major health problem in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 A close relationship ended in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I lost my job or retired in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I got married in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I took on a lot of debt in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I got divorced or separated in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I lost a lot of money in the past 12 months.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing marital problems.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing sexual problems.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing financial problems.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing trouble with friends or relatives.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing problems meeting family demands.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing pressure at work or school.
1 2 3 4 5 I have ongoing pressure with emotional problems.
1 2 3 4 5 I am constantly facing do-or-die deadlines.
__________ TOTAL SCORE (add up all numbers)
20 – 35 Virtually stress free
36 – 50 Somewhat stressful
51 – 75 Stressed – watch out
76 – 100 Super stressed – reduce all pressures in your life or someone will be calling 911.
This is meant to be a general guideline only. One person’s reaction to a certain event can be radically different than another person’s reaction to a very similar event. We are complex individuals sometimes and there may be different factors that affect our reaction to both acute stress and chronic stress.
Here is a clever and helpful video on stress management
How Do You Know If You Are Experiencing Too Much Stress?
Here are some generally symptoms to watch yourself for or watch a loved one who is under a lot of stress for. Or if you feel like the person in the cartoon above, you need to get a handle on things.
Some mental or emotional changes you might see are the following:
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Anxiousness and/or worry
- Lack of motivation
- Being consistently negative about things
- Feeling overwhelmed
- General unhappiness
Some of the physical symptoms you might notice:
- Aches and pains
- Bowel changes
- Chest pain or tightness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent illness
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Not wanting to do your normal activities
- Using more alcohol or cigarettes
- Nervous habits
There are stresses in life that we cannot control. The fact is, we will have stress for various reasons. We need effective coping mechanisms for the life events that cause stress, but if your stress is chronic, it can cause health problems and take the joy out of life altogether. We need to have stress management skills to help us manage stress, so we don’t get overloaded to the point of physical, mental and emotional harm.
Tips For Sending Stress Away
Having better stress management starts when you have control over these areas:
Your method of dealing with problems that arise.
Stress management involves:
1. Changing the stressful situation when you can or avoiding altogether, if possible.
Avoid situations and people that cause undue stress. Don’t put so much on your to-do list that you no time for yourself at all.
2. Changing your reaction to stress when you can’t change or avoid the situation.
If a stressful situation is unavoidable, look for ways to make it less stressful. Is that being more positive, focusing more on the good points of the situation or maybe communication, etc. Sometimes a stressor is just a stressor and you can’t change the fact. There are many things that fit into this category. Even in awful situations, there can be something good, sometimes we have to stretch to find it. Maybe there is no good that can be found and we just have to work on our reaction to the stressor w can’t change, but still we must take care of ourselves irregardless.
3. Taking care of yourself.
You need time where you can relax. Deep breathing has been well known to initiate relaxation and diffuse feelings of stress in the moment.
We have been told by experts on numerous occasions that exercise is one of the best stress management techniques.
A healthy nutritious diet helps the body stay strong and this helps us with the internal energy needed to better cope with stress.
Sleep is also important. If you are fatigued during the day, you will be less able to deal with stress.
And many of us, myself included, forget and/or don’t schedule in laughter. I say scheduled in because so often, I know for myself and what I have observed of others, you get so wrapped up in the stress of daily responsibilities that often times, laughter doesn’t come to mind at all. Laughter has been proven to have many health benefits. When we laugh, our body chemistry actually changes. In essence, it sends the happy natural chemicals throughout your body that can help bring special nourishment to your cells. It can help decrease the feelings of stress. Even smiling can send these happy natural chemicals. Put things around you that make you smile, chuckle or laugh on a daily basis.
For more ideas on how to manage chronic stress, you can check out our other articles on this series on stress. Also, Helpguide has a free online program that might help you with changing your emotional response to the stresses in your life.