Americans are stressed. Really stressed. Almost 80% of us say we feel stress “sometimes or frequently during the day.”
Of course, some stress is just a normal part of everyday life. Much of it comes from the work and family obligations we experience all the time (although there can also be seasonal spikes), and it’s not realistic to expect that we can eliminate stressors entirely.
How we manage them is what makes a big difference. Our ability to “bounce back” from a stressful situatiom is what clinicians call “resilience,” and it is impacted by factors ranging from communication and problem-solving skills to our relationships with others. In order to manage stress, we need to become more resilient.
The Negative Effects of Stress
Stress can affect our body and physical health in a number of negative ways, and everyone experiences stress differently. Some people’s stress response leaves them unable to sleep; headaches, loss of appetite, or feelings of sadness and anger are also common. Over time, stress accumulates and can contribute to ongoing health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.
Fortunately, there are steps we can take to build and develop stress resilience. Some of these include:
- Setting manageable goals. This helps to make us feel accomplished, rather than overwhelmed.
- Accepting that change is a part of life. Instead of raging against circumstances that are out of your control, focus on the aspects of the situation that you can change.
- Making connections in your community. Social support from extended family, faith groups, or friends is invaluable.
Manage Stress Every Day
In addition to building resilience, there are steps that you can take to help manage stress and prevent it from taking over your life. Get regular exercise and incorporate a relaxing activity — like yoga or meditation — into your weekly routine. It also helps to:
- Practice positive self-talk. This means talking and thinking in a loving, supportive way, rather than reacting to a setback or stressful situation with frustration and anger.
- Learn how to manage your time. This includes figuring out how to say no to new commitments when you’re already overloaded.
- Practice deep breathing, especially if you feel your stress response activating. Being aware of this stress response, and actively working to slow your breathing down, makes any situation feel less acutely stressful.
Stress affects everyone. It’s part of life. But its unmitigated impact over time can be serious, which makes managing it essential.