Major life traumas such as divorce and the death of a loved one are sources of stress, but so are small irritating daily events: You’re late getting the kids to school. The dishwasher breaks down. You lock your keys in the car. An unexpected bill arrives in the mail. These small doses of stress can add up, gradually affecting our relationships, compromising our inner resources, and even causing health problems such as arthritis, ulcers, headaches, high blood pressure and heart attacks.
In moderation, stress can enhance performance and even produce a felling of exhilaration (like the emotional high from an intense workout). While we all need a certain amount of physical and emotional stress to accomplish things, sustained stress can result in reduced energy and creativity.
Learning to reduce and manage so-called ‘bad’ stress is critical to achieving physical, emotional and mental well-being. Here are four keys to help you:
SET LIMITS Strive to set achievable goals for yourself. Identify your limits and then make sure you have communicated them clearly to others.
SHIFT YOUR PERSPECTIVE How we experience stress often depends on how we look at things. Every challenge has a positive side; make that your focus. Life will always feel more stressful if we’re critical or resentful. Looking on the bright side will also help you practice tolerance and forgiveness toward yourself and others – an attractive personality trait to nurture.
DEVELOP YOUR INNER-SUPPORT SYSTEM Good self-care practices such as eating healthy foods, meditating, or having regular spa treatments or massage will help nurture and protect you from the effects of stress.
CREATE AN OUTER SUPPORT SYSTEM Create a pleasant, nurturing environment and surround yourself with positive supportive people. Knowing that we can express our ‘bottled up’ feelings to a sympathetic ear is a great stress reliever.