People are more stressed out now then ever before. We work more and play less. We rush around to be, and do, and have. Our lives are controlled by a myriad of electronic devices that don't let us have a moments peace. No wonder signs of stress are everywhere we look.
We are plugged in, turned on, and tapped out. As a nation, we are becoming chronically sick and overweight. Are high levels of stress to blame?
Types of Stress
Stress is a normal, natural part of our lives. We could not survive without it. Normal stress is what gives us the ability to have the strength to perform during life threatening situations like a car accident or house fire. While positive stress is what stimulates our creativity and gives us the energy to accomplish goals. We feel a sense of accomplishment and enjoy our work. Negative stress, on the other hand, is when it becomes destructive to our overall health and well being.
We all experience major stresses at various points in our lives. Moving, starting a new job, getting married or divorced, having children, and death of loved ones to name a few. While these are stressful, we learn coping mechanisms and the stress reduces over time.
However, it is mainly the smaller day-to-day aggravations and frustrations that continue to build over time that causes the real problems.
Sources of Stress
Most of our stress stems from a few different major areas.
Environmental stressors are generally things in the background that we don't have much control over. But they annoy the hell out of us. Like the neighbor's barking dog, the bright lights over your desk, and the constant ringing of telephones. My neighbor used to have an electric blower that emitted this high-pitched whine that set my teeth on edge. I was stressed the whole time he used it and for hours afterward.
Work can produce both positive and negative stress. Unfortunately, for most of us, the stress is in the negative category. We hate our jobs, we hate our boss, we hate our coworkers. Our workload is too high, deadlines too short, and the paychecks too small. And let's not even talk about the commute.
Because we are in so many different relationships in our life, this is a biggie. Whether it be the nagging mother, demanding partner, rebellious child, or wishy-washy friend, most of us have some form of negative relationship stress. Sometimes we even create it where it doesn't exist. Worrying about whether your significant other is faithful even though there is no evidence is just one example.
We all have stress over money, even if we have enough. Most of us live pay check to pay check and constantly worry where the money for the next unexpected expense will come from. In addition to the monthly budget for essentials, the car needs repair, or the washing machine broke, or Johnny needs braces. And if you have money, your worries are different. Taxes, estate planning, and dodging all of your friends and family that come begging.
Our health is a major source of stress, especially as we get older. Unfortunately, the stress from worrying only causes more ill-health. This is where the signs of stress really become visible.
While there are certainly other sources, these are the major ones. All of them can lead to physical, mental, and emotional stress and a decline in our health and well-being.
Signs of Stress
In mild cases you may simply be tired and irritable. You often have headaches and may notice changes in your appetite. Some people eat more when stressed, some eat less. You anger more easily. You may develop trouble sleeping which makes you even more tired and irritable.
As you become even more stressed, your muscles tense causing neck and shoulder pain, backaches, and chronic pain in places you didn't know you have. Your immune system weakens and you become more susceptible to infections and viruses. Stress may become full blown anxiety. Loss of sex drive can result creating even more stress in your relationships.
As stress continues to build, physical signs of stress become more prominent. Digestive issues develop into ulcers, chronic constipation or diarrhea. Tension headaches are the norm. The stress on your emotional state becomes too much and you begin to feel despair and depression. You are less interested in life in general and are most likely gaining weight.
In severe cases, high blood pressure, chronic pain due to inflammation, heart problems, panic attacks, and even stroke may develop. Your immune system weakens further leaving you vulnerable to all kinds of disease.
Unfortunately, most of us experience at least some of these signs of stress on a daily basis. They become routine, just a part of life. Doctors are reporting that they are seeing stress related health issues in younger and younger people. Even our children are effected.
So, the question is, what can you do to control life's little stresses so they don't turn into a major health crisis? Of course we are not all in a position to quit our job, get a divorce, or move away from the neighbor's annoying dog. But there are ways we can cope. On this site I will be discussing tips and tools that you can use to manage stress so it doesn't ruin your marriage or become a life-threatening health issue. So check back often to see what's new. There's bound to be something that will work for you. In the meantime, try to take time for yourself to just breathe and relax. Do something that makes you feel good. Life's too short to waste it worrying.
The Super Stress Solution, by Roberta Lee, M.D.
The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, Valerie Ann Worwood