Stress the Silent Epidemic
In my last blog i wrote about increasing your well being or flourishing by increasing focus and meaning in your life. Stress unfortunately is the symptom of languishing or not flourishing.
The disease of the 21st century may not be cancer, aids, heart disease but may by stress, depression and general unhappiness. We are living in a time when we are wealthier than we could ever imagine, live longer, enjoy better health, and yet we are especially not happy. Of most concern, is that our children are not happy, with increasing numbers meeting a diagnosis of depression or anxiety or stress.
This last two months has been stressful for most of us. Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year. Not only with meeting the costs of Christmas but also of spending or not spending time with family or loved ones. Going to school is also stressful for our children and their parents. Making new friends, negotiating a new teacher, learning new skills, the increasing amount of homework are all stressful. Stress on the family may result from mothers returning to work, negotiating sick leave for their children, increase in mortgage repayments.
One of the first steps to coping with stress is to recognise and acknowledge that you are stressed. Sometimes stress can slowly build so that the changes are subtle. Sometimes you may not even be aware that you have been stressed until you have chest pains or until you find that you are anxious or unwell. Some of the signs of stress:
Life has sped up,
Not able to listen as well
Change in appetite
More pessimistic outlook
Memory and concentration changes.
Social and emotional withdrawal
Less able to cope with loud noise, and conflict.
In your children look for changes in mood, behaviour, sleep patterns or eating.
If you said yes to any of the above symptoms then you may be suffering stress. Stress can easily be treated. One of the first steps to dealing with stress is to examine your lifestyle, your goals and your expectations. The trend is for many of us to down size. This means that more of us are choosing to have less and work less in order to improve our quality of life. Other steps are to have regular exercise, (a 20 minute walk each day), ensure that you have regular contact with friends and if your social network has changed then make attempts to join a sporting club or group, review your life goals and decide which ones are important, realistic and which ones are not, review your diet, reduce your alcohol and caffeine, spend time with your pet and in nature and seek help to resolve problems. Sometimes it is the unresolved problems, conflicts, decisions that add to our stress.
Another important tool for coping with stress is the simple act of doing something for another. This is called random acts of kindness. I advise my clients to practice building positive experiences by firstly focusing on their achievements, secondly doing one thing that makes them feel happy a day and thirdly performing a random act of kindness at least once a day. Controlled studies by Martin Seligman and others have shown that these simple steps can improve our general well-being, happiness and optimism.
TIPS FOR STRESS REDUCTION
1.Practice a relaxation every day
2.Reduce caffeine, alcohol in your diet
3.Increase fruits, vegetables
4.Join a gym, go for a walk, swim, play a sport, join a dance class
5.Find a buddy to keep you motivated
6.Make a list of all the things that you find enjoyable and try and do one of these every weekend
7.Keep a diary or journal.
8.Make a note of all your achievements each day
9.Read inspiring books
10.Listen to inspiring music, burn aromatherapy
11.Have a massage
12.Make sure your bedroom is a relaxing space for sleeping
13.Find a friend to speak with
14.Try and minimise complaining or gossiping.
15.Only be with people who are supportive and encouraging
16.Create a relaxing space for you
17.Play with your pets or get a pet
18.Plan to do something different every year