The signs and effects of stress present differently in everyone. While some express stress with more physical signs, such as inability to focus, high blood pressure, digestive issues, or headaches, others express with more emotional or psychological signs, such as irritability, feelings of hopelessness, or change in mood (feeling sad).
Stress affects every system of the body, partly through poor oxygen levels and partly through stress hormones that infiltrate the body and cause damage if left unchecked and uncontrolled for too long. In severe cases, a person may get frequent viruses and find vaccines to be less effective. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 70% to 90% of doctor visits are attributable to conditions caused or greatly heightened by stress. When we are stressed, our bodies don’t get the oxygen they need for organs to function properly, and well-being suffers. Stress can be directly linked to some of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and even suicide, as stated by the American Psychological Association (APA).
The American Institute of Stress (AIS) reports that the leading cause of stress in people is related to their jobs, saying that “80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress, and 42% say their coworkers need such help.” In a survey conducted online on behalf of the APA by Harris Interactive between January 31 and February 8, 2011, 36% of workers reported experiencing work stress on a regular basis, and nearly half stated low salary has a significant impact on their stress level related to work.
In addition, during times of high demands on employees or significant transitions in the workplace, the amount of stress employees experience is aggravated many times over. When employees struggle to effectively manage their negative responses to stress, it can impact their interactions with fellow employees and others around them and become “contagious” in the work environment and at home.
In fact, employee illnesses due to stress result in lost work time, decreased productivity, and staff turnover, as well as increased medical, legal, and insurance costs for companies. According to the AIS, job stress costs U.S. industries approximately $300 billion a year. Wow! And to think: you can participate in a stress management routine for nothing.
So what is a stress management routine? Well, it is different for everyone. Here is one example that can be done in about three minutes:
- Take a deep breath (inhale completely), hold it for two, three, or four seconds, and then release (exhale completely). While releasing, repeat to yourself, “Relax, relax, relax.” This can be out loud or with your inner voice.
- Repeat the first step while thinking positive, happy thoughts.
- Repeat the second step until your stress is reduced or gone.
Common ways to deal with stress include counseling, mindfulness yoga, exercise, nutrition, and speaking positive mantras (“today is going to be a great, stress-free day”). Other ways to reduce or monitor stress are:
Hypnosis is a safe, altered mental state of deep relaxation, focused attention, and openness to suggestion. We experience a form of hypnosis on a daily basis—for example, when waking up and falling asleep.
Meditation often consists of an internal, conscious effort to self-regulate the mind. The word “meditation” can refer to the meditative state itself, as well as to practices or techniques employed to cultivate that particular state. Meditation is similar to hypnosis but is less clinical in nature. Meditation can be done alone or with the assistance of a CD, MP3, or live instructor, individually or in a group setting.
No matter the cause of the stress, is it is important to deal with it properly to lead a happy, productive life.
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