By Elson Haas, MD
It seems like stress is just an unavoidable part of today’s fast-paced, competitive world. But is it really? Stress is the body’s instinctive response to external environmental cues, as well as to one’s inner thoughts and feelings. It is how you react to perceived danger — the “fight or flight” response, for example. But you do have some control over how stress operates in your life. Below, see the 7 different types of stress and read on for 9 methods for combating it.
- PHYSICAL: intense exertion, manual labor, lack of sleep, travel
- CHEMICAL: drugs, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and environmental pollutants such as cleaning chemicals or pesticides
- MENTAL: perfectionism, worry, anxiety, long work hours
- EMOTIONAL: anger, guilt, loneliness, sadness, fear
- NUTRITIONAL: food allergies, vitamin and mineral deficiency
- TRAUMATIC: injuries or burns, surgery, illness, infections, extreme temperatures
- PSYCHO-SPIRITUAL: troubled relationships, financial or career pressures, challenges with life goals, spiritual alignment and general state of happiness
Next: 9 Ways to Fight Stress
There are plenty of effective (and mostly pleasant) things you can do to minimize and manage stress. Here are some of my recommendations:
- HAVE MORE FUN. Schedule in and actively pursue activities that you enjoy and that help you relax.
- EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS. Emotions need regular venting and evolution. Stuck, unexpressed emotions are the building blocks of pain and illness.
- GET ENOUGH SLEEP. Poor sleep habits interfere with your body’s ability to rest, heal and recharge. If you have trouble sleeping, seek out the causes and get some help addressing them!
- EXERCISE. Regular physical exercise is one of the best ways to clear away tension and build energy. It also helps you to adopt a better life perspective and to feel more in control of your circumstances.
- PRACTICE RELAXATION EXERCISES. Breathing, meditation and visualization exercises help you let go of mental worries and allow you to experience precious moments of calm and inner peace. I believe that this quiet, “nothing happening” space is where the healing process begins.
- DEVELOP GOOD RELATIONSHIPS. It is important to have authentic friends in whom you can confide and find support. Those who love and accept you — people who will listen and advise, but won’t judge — are your true friends. It can also be very fulfilling to be a true friend to someone else.
- EXPERIENCE LOVE AND SATISFYING SEX. A primary relationship that’s loving, sensual and sexual can also be a major stress reducer. Having an understanding, accepting companion to receive your hardworking body and mind can be the best therapy available. That said, if you do not currently have such a relationship in your life, turn to the other helpful therapies. If you are lacking touch, consider getting massage or another form of healing bodywork (you can always trade hand and neck rubs with a friend).
- CHANGE PERCEPTIONS AND ATTITUDES. When ideas or views are not serving you, it’s wise to examine and adapt them. It’s important to learn to respond to life’s situations and not just react. This is a true “response-ability”! Hanging onto frustrations, holding grudges, and playing the victim/blame game are not in your health’s best interest. When you can, step back from the little struggles and look at the big picture. See challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Many people find that applying spiritual principles to sticky life situations offers direction as well as greater peace of mind and heart. But whether it’s a spiritual practice or a daily yoga or journaling ritual, do what you need to do in order to find and experience self-love, self-respect and true self-worth.
- EAT RIGHT. Eating nutrient-poor foods that are high in sugar or filled with chemicals and unhealthy fats puts an unnecessary stress on your system, reducing your immunity, overloading your liver and forcing your body to work overtime just to maintain balance. If you use up too many of your body’s resources on handling high-stress food-and-drink operations, there’s not much left over for emergencies. Eating nourishing food, on the other hand, supports your body’s natural immune and healing systems, helping your body to cope successfully with other sources of stress.