People Man thinking

Stress does not diminish as you grow older and according to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, Americans are experiencing an uptick in the amount of stress, regardless of age. Stress levels increased from 4.8 to 5.1 on a 10-point scale over the last 12 months, the organization found. "What's more, 57 percent of people polled in January said they were stressed about the current political climate; 66 percent were stressed about the future of our nation." Overall there are an estimated 8.3 million American adults who suffer from stress. With all the uncertainty in the world, people are not only feeling the pressure in their personal lives but in their culture. We live in stressful times. We are stressed about war, politics, the economy, jobs and the housing market. When did the tipping point happen? Judith Weissman is a research manager at the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and she has a theory. As explained to CBS: “The recession seemed to have pushed the mentally ill to a point where they never recovered." If Americans are so stressed and it is escalating, what can we do and is there a point? Yes, you can do something and if you don't, chronic stress has reverberations. Here are five things to consider when dealing with stress.

Start to smile more.

Let's get real. None of us want to smile when we are struggling with stress. However, if you check out what stress does to your body, you might force a grin.
Stress has been linked to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain and depression. When you laugh, your body releases endorphins. These are brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters that make you feel happy. These chemicals act like a natural anti-depressant for the body. But how does this work? When you smile, you are using the muscles in your face and this is how we trick the brain into releasing those feel-good chemicals. Additionally, it might help your attitude.

Watch the company that you keep.

We're not trying to become your mother, but remember when she said to watch who you hang out with? She was correct! If you are already stressed out, why hang out with a bunch of downers? We are very much influenced by the people in our lives. If you are around anger, gossip and just being around miserable people, you will emulate these behaviors. Proverbs 13:20 shared the following about the company that we keep. "He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm." If you are finding that the people that you are spending time with are polluting you more than energizing you, you need to rethink your relationships. Pay more mind to the people that you are spending time with as they could be causing you more tension.

Set time aside without your electronic devices.

We don't know how to slow down and this makes it harder to deal with stress. Make it a point to take a break and unplug the cell phone. How many times were you having dinner or reading a good book and the phone interrupted some needed downtime? University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras found that your mobile device addiction is associated with depression and anxiety. He surveyed over 300 university students with questionnaires addressing cell phone and internet use. Questions included: “Do you think that your academic or work performance has been negatively affected by your cellphone use?” and “Do you think that life without the internet is boring, empty and sad?" They found that using technology made people more depressed and boosted anxiety scores.

Allow nature to mellow you.

If you want to calm down and get your entire body in sync, go to nature. Studies have shown that even looking at nature through a window can restore mental energy, lower the level of stress-related hormones in the blood and of course it helps your mood. Go to the local park or lake when there is little activity and allow yourself to become more still. Use this as a form of meditation. Meditation helps us reach a deeply restful state and allows the mind and the body calm down. This process can be used to train the mind and to train the body to handle stress better.

Understand that you can't control everything.

Sometimes you need to remind yourself the heck with things that go on. Sometimes you need to not give a hoot regarding negative input or rejection. If there is someone in power over you abusing authority or any other thing that you have little control over, shake it off. What is not cool is having that constant internal pressure to master the universe and the people around you. "You inappropriately take on issues that are not your battle to fight. The healthy response is to take the time to evaluate what is truly within your control and what is not. If you can control something, do so," author Dr. Crista Gambrell wrote. By trying to control all the things in your life, it causes great strain and ultimately you are just spinning your wheels. Really examine what you can take off of your plate so you can avoid any overwhelming feelings of stress. 

Yes, stress is a normal part of life. But as the statistics show, most people are allowing events and their daily lives to swallow them up. Don't be a statistic and set up boundaries to prevent stress from dominating your life or destiny.

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