Many consider stress to be a byproduct of our technology age. Yet the word distress, which is the basis of the word stress, was first used in the 14th century. Wars, plagues and famine were common causes of distress in the Middle Ages. Medical care was limited and in some regions, virtually nonexistent. In short, life was harsh and stressful, with the average life expectancy only 30 years.
Stress was identified and given a name in the Middle Ages, but seven hundred years later, life is still causing us distress. According to WebMD, 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and 75% to 90% of all visits to the doctor's office are for stress-related ailments or complaints. These statistics indicate that developing positive ways to deal with stress is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, the modern world of medicine has given us the coping tools that our ancestors lacked.
Below are just a few simple examples of how to deal with daily stressors.
- Take a breath – When you encounter a situation that can escalate into stress, take a moment to breathe. Count to ten, focus on the inhalation and let the stress out with your exhale.
- Visit your “happy place – The mind cannot hold two thoughts at once. If you are beginning to feel the onset of stress, visualize a place, person or object that is a source of joy. Visualize an image such as your child’s face, some beautiful scenery, anything that represents happiness to you. Such imagery slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and allows a space to cope with stress.
- Reframe – Consider problems as opportunities. When a problem occurs, it is an opportunity to use your skills to create a solution.
- Slow down – If you have a busy schedule, plan 5-minute breaks throughout the day to relax and recharge.
- Listen to music with an upbeat tune.
- Do some stretching exercises.
- Give a friend or family member a call.
If you are having trouble handling your stress, consult your healthcare professional.