We are living in a world where people are more concerned with stress and anxiety, rather than any other health issue, including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Seems like it is time to figure a way out of the endless stress cycle.
Envision this: You’re at the doctor’s office for a regular check-up. Joyfully, you’re pointing out that you’ve lost the weight that you wanted to lose.
“That’s great,” says the doctor, placing the stethoscope around her neck and pulling up a stool by your own chair. “But we have a more serious concern than your weight.”
“Really?” you ask, confused and curious.
The doctor says, “The stress levels are out of balance.”
You swallow. Yes, on the other side of the scale, you completed the stress-related questionnaire that your psychiatrist went over with you. But all of us are anxious these days. Stress isn’t that serious… Is it?
According to the Health + Wellbeing 2019 report conducted by the Hartman Group, anxiety and stress have become the main medical problem for Americans.
“Sixty-three percent of consumers say they are treating or preventing anxiety or stress compared to 61 percent who are treating or preventing being overweight,” reports David Wright, senior marketing manager at the Hartman Group. “Weight is still seen as a key indicator of overall health, but mental/emotional health is becoming a more prominent aspect of how consumers understand health and wellness,” Wright notes.
The questions is, how can we start resolving this health issue? There are more than 6 out of 10 people stating their biggest well-being need is to control or reduce their stress feelings. The very first place to begin is right at our home, our life. Therefore, we offer you some tips on where you can start:
Identify what is actually beneath the stress
A lot of people think that life will be easier “if only.” If only that colleague wasn’t always in a bad mood. If only the manager would see your talent. If only your partner had more respect for you. Or if only you had taken a different profession, worked in a different part of the world, or were a different age.
These and related feelings are actually masks, hiding the true problem, says Diana Calvo, a life coach and psychotherapist located in Boulder, Colorado. You need to know what actually upsets you, rather than ignoring it or attempting to confuse yourself, suggests Calvo, who specializes in helping people cope with stress and anxiety.
“Quite often, feelings of tension and distress appear when a different, painful feeling is attempting to express itself,” says Calvo. “And we are struggling not to experience it.” Stress or fear is a defense system that is trying to keep us unconscious of certain harsh realities, such as failure in life or grief over a failed relationship or the impending loss of a loved one.
“Engage in everyday practice of observing your inner experience and your reaction to it,” suggests Calvo. “For instance, if you feel angry, notice your dislike of feeling angry, what you want to do to try to make it go away, and what it feels like in your body.” As you begin to carefully observe your real feelings, you will be able to address them instead of just trying to suppress them.
If you figure out that you have a long list of pestering problems hidden beneath your pressures, begin a “Worry List” and get all the stress factors out of your mind and on paper. You can transform it into an activity list and cross them off as you do what you need to do to fix them. Then for stuff that is out of your control — you should turn those into a prayer list.
Reduce or eliminate any stress factors you may have
Understanding how to cope with stress and anxiety is important, but there are many other ways to minimize stress in your life. For example, do you find yourself going on every panel or committee that you are invited to? Or participating in a school bake sale…? Even if you’ve got a major report due at work during the same week?
Reducing sources of stress, when possible, starts by setting limits for yourself and your time. Yes, it would be great to help with your children’s snack bar at Little League, but it’s the same period of the year when you’re busy with the tax season at your accounting company.
Your day is practically filled with chances to do better, have more, be better. It can be overwhelming to just think of all the possibilities. This frustration with pulling back and saying “no” to people and chances has also contributed to FOMO’s pop culture theory (fear of losing out). However, sometimes, for the sake of your wellbeing, it’s better to miss out on the activity — and the stress that goes with it.
Laugh at it
A reference in the Bible states that a wise woman will “laugh at the coming days” (Proverbs 31:25). But can we all do that? Or just people who are happy, optimistic, and spiritual, and can find fun even in stressful situations?
Laughter is soothing. No one understands that better than comedian Charles Marshall, a hilarious motivational speaker who has been making people happy for more than 25 years. Marshall started off as a singer which had been his biggest dream. However, his artistic career was ruined by a health problem, leaving Marshall devastated.
“It was a soul-crushing, crying-myself-to-sleep experience,” he explains. “My whole identity was as a musician. It was all I’d ever wanted to do.”
From that disappointment, nevertheless, Marshall discovered a new call: to make people laugh and inspire them in the process. After years of stand-up comedy, he is a sought-after motivational speaker, writer, and columnist.
“I come from the perspective that humor is the antidote to life’s pain,” Marshall states. “Comedian Steve Allen once said that tragedy plus time equals comedy. I’ve found that sometimes when people run into something painful, it’s hard for them to laugh at first. What’s most rewarding in my job is when people come up to me after an event saying things like, ‘This is the first time I’ve laughed since my husband passed away six months ago, or since I was diagnosed with cancer three months ago.”
While being an effective cure for mourning souls, humor is also important in helping people alleviate stress and combat anxiety. Looking for laughter and bringing happiness to your life is important, Marshall tells. “The great thing is that humor is a choice. We can be proactive,” Marshall says. “Most people think humor is a circumstance that happens to them, but we can seek it out.”
How is that? Marshall suggests starting with simple steps: subscribe to YouTube comedy channels, or add humorous people on Facebook. Then look for positive people to spend time with.
Don’t let the work overshadow your whole life
Any other way to take stress back? Leave work in its right place, and don’t give it more property than it deserves in your life.
“I’m all for owning your job and being present in your career, but at the same time, this is your only life,” reminds Marshall. If you don’t set aside time for important things in life, you’ll miss out and be stressed out. “I take a daily mini vacation. I like tea, so after lunch I try to just have a cup of tea and talk with my wife. Even when—especially when—the roof is caving in on me, it’s good to just have some human connection. We try to do that in the evenings as well.”