We all experience varying degrees of stress on a regular basis. Believe it or not, a certain amount of stress is good for us. Our bodies need to secrete the stress hormone, cortisol, as an activation response or form of energy that is required for us to function effectively throughout the day. However, an elevated increase in cortisol can and will have negative consequences to our health and well-being. Be it money troubles, issues with our children, a conflict at work, bad traffic, or other threatening situations, stress can cause both short-term and long-term changes to our body and mind. Research has shown that chronic stress can contribute to health problems, including heart disease, digestive disorders, and headaches. It can also affect our brain by causing lower memory, focus, and problem-solving skills.
While people under stress often feel of loss of self-esteem and sense of control, it is important to understand that feeling stress is not a sign of personal weakness or that something is wrong with us. Stress is unavoidable, and there are actions we can take that can certainly help us mitigate its uncomfortable effects. What can we do to better cope or manage potentially stressful situations.
Consider these strategies for managing stress in your daily life.
Develop a Sense of Control in Your Life
- Confront your problems head on rather than avoiding them.
- Disengage in your typical thinking or emotional responses when dealing with a conflictive situation. Re-evaluate and modify your approach.
- Live in the present and look forward to the future. Maintain a sense of hope.
- Do not try to be all things to all people. Learn to say “no” to people and situations that may cause you stress.
- Think positive thoughts.
- Re-examine your lifestyle. What needs to change to reduce your stress levels?
- Never use drugs or alcohol to help gain control in your life.
Maintain Good Health Habits
- Exercise regularly.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Don’t smoke.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol or abuse any other substances.
- In everything you undertake, give it your best.
- Embrace your positive characteristics.
- Acknowledge your accomplishments.
- Accept the things you cannot change.
- Find time to turn electronics off.
- Make time to socialize.
- Establish peaceful times in your day.
Be committed to reducing the negative stress in your life. If you still find yourself too stressed out, talk to your healthcare professional and get the extra help you may need to deal with stress and its consequences.
Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living
Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A. in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College, a large community college in Southern California. She currently consults in higher education, volunteers for AARP, writes for a local magazine, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member at Boise State University and on the Board for LEARN Idaho. Since February 2017, she has been the founding director for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging. As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.