Stress is a part of the American culture. As a society, we are more stressed than ever before. According to the American Institute of Stress, our society is most anxious about the future of the country, finances, and jobs. This constant stress can have negative impacts on your health and well-being.
Unhealthy vices or behaviors, like excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy food choices, lack of exercise, or smoking are common ways people deal with stress. These choices are temporary fixes and will not help you cope with stress long-term. The best way to deal with stress is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of thinking that focuses on accepting the stressful feelings as they are.
Coping With Stress
Stress is a normal and everyday part of life. Stress in small doses can actually be a good thing. Think of a job interview. The nervousness and stress associated with the interview can motivate you to perform better. In more dangerous or urgent situations, stress can save your life by activating your flight-or-fight response.
However, long-term stress can be damaging. Chronic stress can affect your sleep patterns, immune system, digestion, and emotional stability. Nearly 77% of people experience physical symptoms such as a digestion issues, a weakened immune system, and poor sleep patterns. While 73% of people experience psychological symptoms like emotional instability.
When you turn to harmful stress fixes such as drinking alcohol or smoking, especially over a long period of time, there can be negative consequences. Research shows that turning to alcohol or smoking to cope with stress contributes to 45% of all cancer deaths. Additionally, 42% of people diagnosed with cancer may have developed their condition due to these harmful vices.
As we learn more about the effects of stress on the body, more health care providers are turning to mindfulness to help their patients cope with stress. Mindfulness is a mental practice that allows you to accept current circumstances and to better control your reactions.
There is no fancy equipment needed to practice mindfulness. It is recommended to set aside some time each day to develop a mindful skillset. Sit in a comfortable position and allow your mind to rest. Try not to think of anything specifically, but notice if there you have any strong feelings or thoughts as they occur. Allow the strong feelings to pass and return to the present moment.
Many people think that mindfulness means having your mind be totally blank. However, that is not the goal. The goal of mindfulness is to observe your thoughts and notice how things affect your mind.
Changing Unhealthy Behaviors
Changing your stress coping mechanisms from unhealthy to healthy can take time. Start small surround yourself with supportive people that will encourage your new healthy behaviors. Try talking a walk around the block after work instead of pouring yourself a drink. It will help clear your mind from the days stressors and improves your physical fitness.
Practicing mindfulness and changing your habits can help you to have a better and healthier life.