Is it my impression that stress slowly but surely conquers our lives and wins the best of us? We’re always in a hurry, always longing for something we don’t have, scared of something we don’t know, or worried about what may happen. “It’s human nature”, you may say, and I agree.
Unfortunately, this part of our nature prevents us from enjoying life and the things we have already accomplished. If we don’t do something about it, we risk waking up one day to the cruel reality of having wasted days, months, or years we can never recover. What are your favorite ways to unwind after a stressful day?
I see stress as an enemy, and I believe the best strategy to defeat an enemy is to get to know it. The best strategy to defeat stress is to identify its source and take prevention and relief measures. Perhaps reviewing the main sources of stress people report can help you assess whether they apply to you as well, so let’s get to it!
5 Popular Sources of Stress – Are They Present in Your Life?
1. Lifestyle Changes
Perhaps you don’t realize it, but any changes in your life can cause stress. It does not matter if you impose the changes yourself or they occur independently of your will, or if they are positive or negative changes. You can assess the stress level associated with life-changing events using the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory. According to it, the events with the heaviest impact are:
- Death of the spouse
- Divorce and/or marital separation
- Time in prison or some other detention institution
- Death of a family member
- Severe illness or personal injury
- Job loss
- Reconciliation with the spouse
- Work retirement
2. Stress In Relationships
Perhaps you don’t realize it, but your relationships can cause a lot of stress. It could come from small things, like wondering whether your loved one wants the same things or their parents like you, or from serious issues, such as pathological jealousy, infidelity, marriage plans, sexual difficulties, physical and psychological abuse, etc. Even the lack of a relationship can cause stress.
3. Work Stress
Every week, more than one-third of your time goes to work-related activities. Whether you’re actually working or on your way to and from work, engaged in repetitive tasks or preparing for major career events, you could be under a lot of stress.
Things get even worse when you have an impossible boss, tight deadlines to meet, or huge responsibilities you are not sure you can handle. Since your work and related earnings impact your financial situation as well, not stressing over it would be a real miracle.
4. Self-Generated Stress
Are you a perfectionist setting incredibly high standards for yourself? Are you constantly worried people will judge you or think less of you if you do one thing or the other? Do you expect the worst in every situation? I’m sorry to say this, but you’re a walking and talking source of stress. You probably create storms in a glass of water, and are, thus, harming yourself.
Believe it or not, the environment you live and work in can be a huge source of stress as well. Think of excess or insufficient light, high noise levels, extreme temperatures, increased humidity, heavy traffic, etc. Perhaps you don’t perceive some environmental conditions as stressful, but that does not mean they don’t impact your well-being.
Now that you begin to get a glimpse of how stressful your life really is, you probably understand the importance of preventing and relieving stress. In terms of prevention, you can try to eliminate some stress sources, by ending a harmful relationship, moving to a quiet neighborhood, changing your job, changing your look, or seeking counseling to improve your self-confidence.
It is important to note that such measures will only help you eliminate or reduce some stress sources from your life, not eliminate stress altogether. This brings us to the need for stress relief strategies.
How do you control and relieve stress? Here are some of the most popular and effective techniques.
5 Stress Relief Techniques Everyone Should Try
1. Physical Exercise
One of the most effective ways to relieve stress is physical exercise. Although most Americans spend several hours every day engaging in sedentary activities meant to help them manage stress, the ones who actually succeed to relieve stress are those who engage in physical activities. Besides relieving stress, the latter also improve their fitness, cardiovascular health, body mass index, cognitive function, and reduce depression.
Think of it this way: you can either sit on the couch, snacking and worrying about stuff you see on TV, or work out and eliminate some of the concerns related to your health, looks, and well-being. I’d go for the second option, especially since physical activity can involve a relaxing walk in the park, dancing to your favorite music, or a game with your kids or friends, but the final decision is all yours!
2. Listening to Music
Studies have proven that music listening has stress-reducing effects, especially in the presence of others, and with the deliberate purpose of inducing relaxation. To convince yourself of the power of music, try listening to your favorite tunes while doing housework or exercising. You’ll notice an increase in motivation and performance.
I used to listen to music on my headphones while commuting to work, to escape the noise the old bus made, the gossip of the travelers, and unwanted inquisitive conversations (I’m not too sociable when it comes to curious commuters who want to know everything about me and give unsolicited advice, I admit).
It helped me turn the almost two hours I spend on the road every day from a nightmare into a relaxing experience. The music replaced the noise, prevented unwanted distractions, and allowed me to focus on the landscape, which was breathtaking, to say the least.
Did you ever go from crying to laughter in just seconds? Did you notice that, although your problems don’t disappear, they become more bearable after a good laugh? Well, that’s because laughing relieves stress.
When you are sad or depressed, the level of neurotransmitters in your brain (serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) drops. Laughter helps increase dopamine and serotonin levels and boosts endorphins secretion. It is one of the most effective therapies against stress and depression, so try it!
4. Mindfulness Meditation
If you haven’t tried it so far, consider taking up mindfulness meditation as a stress relief technique. Researchers found that mindfulness-based stress reduction programs help diminish anxiety, manage worries, improve sleep, and reduce irritability.
5. Expressive Writing
Did you notice that, sometimes, you feel better after expressing your fears, worries, and discontent? Try doing that in writing every day. Studies show that expressive writing helps relieve stress. Gay men felt less stigmatized after transposing their inclinations and discontent in writing, caregivers of senior adults found relief in writing about their difficulties, and anxious test-takers who laid their fears on paper before their exams obtained better results than those who didn’t.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried the above techniques, and I can testify to their effectiveness. Have you tried them?
Do you know of better ways to relieve stress? I’d love to hear more about your favorite stress relief techniques, so feel free to share them in a comment!