How stress is caused, and how to deal with it

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Do you wake up in the morning and feel as though you aren’t ready to take on the day? Do you need coffee, soda or snacks to keep you going? Do you feel like you are physically exhausted but your mind is still speeding forward? Do you have achy muscles, especially in your back, neck or shoulders? Do you have trouble remembering things throughout the day?

If you can answer “yes” to most of these, then maybe, just maybe, it’s time to talk about stress. If you’ve already noticed that stress is a problem in your life, it’s time to work on de-stressing your life.

Why is stress so harmful, anyway? I challenge you to quickly jot down 10 reasons why you believe stress could be harmful for your mental and physical health, or at least think of a few reasons in your head before you read on.

Let me share with you some leading psychological and physical symptoms of stress that affect a large majority of our population. Psychological symptoms include feeling irritable, angry or nervous, having a lack of energy and feeling as though you might cry at any moment. Physical symptoms include fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, tension in your muscles, possibly feeling dizzy and changes in your appetite or sex drive. Many people dealing with stress also see a change in their sleep cycles and are not able to fall asleep very easily.

Now that you have a list and you’ve seen some of these less-than-encouraging symptoms of stress, what is stopping you from taking action to remove that nasty stress from your life? Often, time and motivation keep us from making these much-needed changes in our lifestyles. After getting home from a busy and stressful day, we take a few hours to unwind. We turn on the television, surf the Internet, play some video games or do a few other similar tasks to get our minds off the stress. Herein lies the problem: All of those things are working to mask the stress rather than dealing with it, and we all know that if you don’t deal with a problem, it will rarely go away.

When you get in bed at night, your brain replays everything that happened throughout the day so that it can correctly file it away within your brain. If you haven’t taken the time to deal with the chaos of your day before you fall asleep, you aren’t going to be able to get rid of the stress that comes from it. It’s time to fix the problem.

The topic of stress goes beyond this article. Take time to sit down and really think about the stress in your life. Think about positive solutions to the stress. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to deal with stress, so find what works best for you and follow through with it.

Here are some ideas that have worked for me in the past and might be a good starting point for reducing the stress in your own life.

› Turn off your cellphone 30 minutes before going to sleep and leave it off until you are ready for work, class or the first task of your day.

› Spend time in nature each day, even if it’s only staring out the window on a rainy day. Nature is very therapeutic.

› Change your music habits. Try listening to some slow, steady music that doesn’t have lyrics in it.

› Use lists to assign tasks throughout your day, week or month. Whether it’s a checklist, to-do list, bulleted list or prioritized list, use what works for you.

I can guarantee you that if you spend time focusing on diminishing the stress in your life and you stick to habits that will help you keep a stress-free lifestyle, you will find yourself in much better physical and mental health.

On its website, www.heart.org, the American Heart Association has some great tips and articles about stress and how to remove it, as much as is possible, from your life. These include items such as positive self-talk, emergency stress-stopping techniques, finding pleasure and investing in daily relaxation. Keep all of these things in mind as you evaluate the stress in your life. When you are removing negative things from your lifestyle, you will find that positive things begin to show up without you having to put any effort toward it. Don’t wait another minute. Let stress be a part of your past.

Shelby Paulsen is the director of The Rising Sun Clubhouse, and can be reached by email at shelbyrpaulsen@gmail.com.

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