80% of U.S workers suffer from work-related stress versus 442,000 people in Britain.
13.7 million working days are lost yearly in the UK in compensation to work-related problems, summing up into a total cost of 28.3 billion pounds, as per the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence.
$14.2 billion is the cost of work-related stress days off in Australia.
Not only that, but stress is also the top concern for U.S teens between 9th and 12th grade.
Seems like stress is a worldwide, all gender and all age issue, isn’t it?
What is Stress?
In its simplest definition stress is a body’s physical reaction to an external threat.
However, there is much more to stress than meets the eyes.
Stress is a “fight or flight” state of the body.
It is the hypothalamus and amygdala overtaking our prefrontal cortex function.
In other words, it is our emotions taking over our rational.
It is a prolonged state of mind that our bodies are not designed to withhold for long.
It is a disturbance in all our body functions when superseded by the release of cortisol.
It is a weakened immune system, sleepless nights, chronic headaches, heart palpitations, frequent colds, and muscle tension.
It is the fire alarm ringing non-stop in your body with no emergency exist available.
It is a psychological trap that many people fall into without even realizing.
What Do You Stress About?
Is it the confrontation with others that you usually lose, the new challenge that you have to take, the toxic relationships you are still holding on to, or just being stuck in a judgemental environment that stresses you out?
Regardless of the specific situation, you are facing, we all stress about common things:
1- We stress about things that are threatening to us physically or emotionally
Whether it is fear of heights, death, labeling, criticism, or judgment as long as the situation persists, it would turn us upside down.
2- We stress about unknown outcomes
A new move, a new relationship, or a new job though exciting, is stressful as well.
People fear what they don’t know and fear is stressful.
3- We stress about lack of control
When we are facing undesired situation or situations that are out of our control we feel stressed.
That is because the safety net which we lean towards, control, in this case, is not there and we feel exposed.
4- We stress about failure
Whether it is the feeling of being not good enough, judged, less or unworthy that is associated with failure, failure does represent a stressful threat.
5- We stress about ending up alone
Nobody wants to be lonely, yet everyone does feel lonely sometimes.
Experiencing loneliness and its unpleasant psychological impact, or just seeing its toll on someone else, stress us out.
It makes us worry about ending up alone.
And we carry this stressful burden along.
6- We stress about getting sick
Owing to the sad news we hear every day concerning our loved ones getting severely sick or losing their lives to sickness, we live with the burden of fearing sickness all the time.
And when this fear is brought to our consciousness, stress persists.
7- We stress about our future
How are we going to end up?
Will we live a meaningful or a wasted life?
Will we be able to do anything remarkable with our lives or would it be in vain?
Will we have enough money?
Will we suffer misfortune?
What would happen to the world/country we are living in?
And so many other concerns that the media, as well as the surrounding situation, urge us into thinking about.
The list is endless, but the inevitable fact is that we all feel stressed out many times in our lives.
And owing to the fast-paced very demanding world we are living in, stress is in every corner.
It is the disease of the century.
Unfortunately, if left untreated stress could turn into anxiety disorder and depression.
With 300 million people affected by depression, as per the World Health Organization, stress should not be taken lightly.
How to relieve stress?
In order to release something, you must first quantify its magnitude.
There is no medical way to diagnose stress, however, many doctors use tests to do so.
Perceived Stress Scale
This test helps us understand how stress affects our feelings and perception.
The test consists of ten questions that need to be answered quickly and separately.
Just pick up the answer that pops up into your mind.
- In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?
- In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?
- In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and stressed?
- In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?
- In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?
- In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do?
- In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations in your life?
- In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?
- In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things that happened that were outside of your control?
- In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?
For each question choose from the following alternatives:
0 – never,1 – almost never, 2 – sometimes, 3 – fairly often, 4 – very often
Add up your total score, after reversing questions 4,5,7,8 score.
Meaning if you scored 0 then change it to 4 if you scored 1 change it to 3 and so forth.
If your score ranged between 0-13 then your stress level is low.
If you scored 14-26 then you are suffering mild stress.
However, if your score is from 27-40 then you have high perceived stress and you need to do something about it.
It is important to note though that the Perceived Stress Scale is a helping tool and not a final diagnosis.
Coping with Stress
Because stress urges you to do something about it to feel better, most people cope with stress by either ignoring it or consuming themselves into other distractions or maybe substance addiction.
Some people distract themselves by getting busy.
However, by doing so, they are adding up to their stress level without even noticing.
Or in other words, hitting their threshold slowly.
Some other people distract themselves through alcohol or smoking.
While in fact, they are burning themselves out.
Other people develop a workout routine that is too challenging.
So, they burn themselves out as well.
Others just spread anger, whining, and negativity blaming it on others.
While some people suppress what, they feel hoping for the world to hear their silent cries and change the situation for them.
Unfortunately, none of these coping techniques relief stress, the most they can do is divert.
Stress Relieving Techniques
Addressing stress as a modern disease consequently requires equal attention as to how to relieve it.
Although everyone would react differently to situations and thus every situation would have a different impact on people, so does stress relieving techniques.
However, here are some tested techniques that should help you relieve your stress.
1- Beat Stress with Self-Awareness
If I can observe myself and pin out the situations that stress me out, then I could easily combat my stress and beat it or at least contain it.
As emphasized, stress is triggered by external stimuli.
If you can be conscious enough to these stimuli, then you could easily observe your train of thoughts and fired emotions, then jump in to break this circle.
For example, if an email notification from your boss with the subject “meeting” seems to fire your stress hormones, then start observing what happens inside your mind and body when you get notified.
Once you start understanding your reactions towards different stimulus better, you can easily start talking yourself out of it.
One thing you will realize is how exaggerated your thoughts and emotions are when you feel threatened, even by a “meeting”.
When you identify your thoughts, you can easily start calming it down through logic.
We said earlier that stress is the absence of logic.
Our prefrontal cortex, the part in our brains responsible for rationalization, is hijacked by other emotional parts.
To reverse the cycle, we need to insert logic into it, to be able to calm ourselves down.
2- You are not on a “Save the World” mission, So, Relax
One thing that could completely change your life is knowing how to differentiate between three very important circles in your life.
Your circle of control, your circle of influence and circle of concern.
Your circle of control is the things that worry you yet, you have control over them.
For example, your shape, the time you spend with your family, playing sports, what you eat, your self-development and so forth.
Your circle of influence, however, are things that concern you and you can influence somehow.
For example, your kid’s grade, if your kid gets a dissatisfying grade or is facing difficulty with some subjects you can help them out.
Either by yourself or through getting them the help they need.
Last but not least, is the circle of your concern.
These are the things that concern you, yet, you have no control over them.
Like world problems, being stuck in traffic, the irritating behavior of your boss or colleagues, or the decline of your country’s economy.
If most of the things that stress you out, lay within your circle of control or circle of influence, then this is good news.
You can easily start investing the effort to put things back in order and relieve your stress.
Nevertheless, if most of the things that are eating you alive lay within your circle of concern, then you need to fix your perspective.
You can’t change the world, even if you try.
Yes, it’s ok that things out of control can affect you, but it’s not ok that it becomes your stressor.
So, if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
3- Speak Your Stress Out
Suppressed emotions are a time bomb.
Even when we think we have buried it deep, it can blow up any time unexpectedly.
It’s like filling a balloon until it blows off, and that balloon is yourself.
Suppressing our emotions is never a fix, instead, it’s better to deal with them.
Don’t carry heavy baggage with you everywhere, it’s unfair.
It’s also unhealthy for your relationships.
If you wait until you explode and expect your partner to understand what was behind all this instead of getting defensive or furious at you, then you are expecting too much.
If you want people to empathize with you, or walk in your shoes, you need to help them out.
Even, if you can’t speak it up with the concerned person, find someone you trust and vent it out.
Or the least write it down on paper, it’s a relief.
Exercising is a very good way to de-stress.
Because exercising releases happy hormones that fight the stressful ones.
Try to keep exercising as part of your routine and you will notice the difference shortly.
5- Take Breaks
Our bodies need to unwind every now and then.
Taking breaks are very important, but we need to define what is a good break first.
A good break is a real break, meaning a break from your mood, your obligations, a chance for your heart and mind to break free for a little while.
Taking a break in front of the television is not a break, neither is a break in front of social media.
6- Cut Down Your Presence on Social Media
While social media is becoming an epidemic, yet, you must learn to cut it down from your life.
Without us noticing, social media is enough reason for chronic stress.
Peer pressure, unconscious comparison, collective guilt, thousands of problems that are out of our control, the world doesn’t just feel safe or pleasant any more thanks to social media!
If you learned to get social media out of your life and use it when necessary only, the quality of your life would drastically improve.
7- Get Enough Sleep
As simple as it sounds, it’s a very important tip.
Good sleep is an eight-hour continuous sleep during the night, not during the day or while commuting.
Good sleep is a deep sleep.
If your sleep isn’t deep you are stressing your nervous system out and keeping it alert all the time.
In the End
You need to keep an eye for what stresses you out.
You need to stay conscious and self-aware.
You are your most valuable asset, so guard yourself against the century’s chronic disease.
Put yourself a priority and change the way you look at things.
Take an open break from social media and go exercise.
As Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”