Many people associate stress with work and forget or overlook the fact that stress in our private life is at least equally harmful. How is stress expressed, and what health problems can it cause? What can we do to reduce stress in our life?
Stress – an issue of our times
We are familiar with stress experienced by women due to the burdens of children, the household and work. Stress in our leisure time can get out of hand through stress in sports and exuberant activities, travel stress and the like. That is because we are accustomed to “the turning of the wheel”.
Few of us are able to come home from the stress of work and then turn off, rest and do NOTHING for a change.
Even children have their share of stress: School stress, fear of tests, fear of not doing well enough in school. Exam stress for university students and the fear of not progressing fast enough in the course of studies.
Stress can fundamentally affect us in all life situations. Statistics show that the mental stress of divorce affects us severely. So does the death of our partner or our retirement. This list could be continued indefinitely.
Finding ways to deal with stress is important.
Stress viewed as the challenge of life is conducive
The Austrian-Canadian researcher Hans Selye introduced the term stress to psychology. He used it to describe the reaction of biological systems to pressures. “Stress” as such is therefore a neutral term.
Without any challenges, people would not be able to view their existence as meaningful and fulfilling.
We have to overcome many challenges in the course of our life. They range from learning to speak to using tools and computers to mastering sports. We are always aware of the need to learn and practice.
Constant striving is rewarded with skill and proficiency. Inasmuch, stress should first of all be viewed as an element that is essential for life.
When the challenges of life are overwhelming and things move at too fast a pace, it becomes a burden. At some point, a person gives up and lets life pass them by. They no longer take part in the world.
This separation between outside and inside is likely the most fundamental cause of burdening stress with all its consequences.
A burdening stress reaction can be triggered by various factors. Mental factors have an especially negative effect. These factors are most frequently the triggers for an unhealthy stress reaction. Ways of thinking establish themselves and lead to a vicious cycle of stress over the long term.
Whether we experience an event as uncontrollable and “stressful” is determined by how we personally view the event. Here the personal assessment of our abilities to master the situation also plays a role.
Alleviating stress starts with questioning the thoughts that cause stress.
The body’s stress reaction as such is not harmful to health. In some cases, progression through the phases is actually perceived as pleasant and performance enhancing.
It becomes burdensome when there are no breaks between phases of stress. This may be due to the demands of our environment or because we fail to sufficiently resist them. People often put these demands on themselves and fail to see when enough is enough.
Damaging stress leads to illness of the “human system” over the long term:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Elevated blood sugar level
- Elevated cholesterol level
- Reduced action of the bowels, leading to constipation or various gastrointestinal diseases
- Elevated muscle tone with tense muscles, postural deformities and joint damage or tension headaches
- Sleep disturbances, unrest
- Exhaustion, loss of performance
- Weakened immune competence
Stress can also influence people’s social behaviour and affect interpersonal relationships. Possible stress reactions include avoiding interpersonal contact.
Tips for less stress in life
Attempting to get out of the “hamster wheel” of stress is important. This can be accomplished by changing certain life circumstances or habits, step by step. Therapeutic help is often needed as well, since this is not so easy to accomplish!
“Don’t stress” is easy to say but not so simple to do. We’ve put together a few tips for you:
- Create a small island of tranquillity once a day. This can also take the form of meditation, for example.
- Maintain a physical balance through sports and outdoor activities. Exercise also helps deal with mental stress and acts like a relief valve for your problems.
- Try to focus on what is essential in your life, on family and friends.
- Deep, restorative sleep is important so the body can regenerate. Turn all electronic devices off an hour before bedtime and go to bed in a timely manner.
- Make sure you maintain a healthy diet since only a well nourished body is able to adequately deal with elevated stress levels. Plenty of fruit and vegetables supply us with vitamins, trace elements and secondary plant compounds.
- Additional nutrient combinations can aid relaxation. Magnesium boosts the normal functions of the nervous system and muscles, and is the anti-stress mineral of the psyche. Hops can be used for insomnia as well as relaxation in case of nervousness. Vitamin B1 assists with regeneration of the nervous system.
- Schuessler salts can provide support and strengthen you during times of elevated stress until burdensome stress can be eliminated.