We all have stress in our life and there is no avoiding it but what if I told you that your negative stress could be reduced by the improvement of three simple aspects of your life? Only three things can take away the negative effects that stress has on your body. This may seem too simple for some but each of these three things are absolutely proven to reduce your negative stress level.
Let’s define the term stress so that we can rightly know how to attack it properly. Stress, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is the physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2017) But is all stress really bad for you?
In my belief, there are two kinds of stress positive and negative. Positive stress can be categorized as a physical or emotional factor that helps build up your body or challenge you as an individual. Negative stress could be categorized as a bodily or mental tension that may be a factor in disease causation.
Negative stress is an unavoidable thing in today’s society and can include things such as a death in the family, a frustrating job situation, a substance abuse issue, or physical and emotional abuse. There are three key concepts that can be taught and put into practice that can help you manage and reduce the stress on your physical and emotional health. These three things are good mental health, good emotional or spiritual health, and good physical health.
Excellent mental health looks generally at two different subjects. Forming positive friendships and relationships is a key to improving your mental health. Another thing that is beneficial to the improvement of mental health is finding a place where you feel at home and have a sense of belonging. Studies have shown that the rearrangement of these two factors has been proven to lessen the blow of negative stress on your body. So how can these benefit overall health and stress levels?
In a study conducted on students at the University of Ghana, the factor of positive relationships and its connection to stress was conducted. The study showed the factor of support from family and friends was an important factor in limiting stress and depression.
The study showed that most of the students that felt that they had adequate social support from family and friends were less likely to develop depression and anxiety that would limit their academic abilities. (Kugbey, Osei-Boadi, & Atefoe, 2015) This study accurately shows a survey that is proof that social support from relationships you from and a sense of belonging have a positive influence on your stress and anxiety level. So how do we use this study and put into action in our life?
The first step to the development of positive social support is to eliminate the negative support system that could already be present. This would mean that if someone is affecting your behavior by poor behavior or support shown of their own that you need to limit the interaction or cut them out of your support system entirely.
After eliminating the negative influence on your life it is important to start to be more interactive with the people around you. A good way of doing this is using the aspects of a study conducted to improve social interactions between people.
Things, like using a “good face”, not interrupting a conversation and knowing when to back off from an argument or interaction, can help you find a positive social structure in your life. (Firth & Barber, 2011) Developing these relationships will help you may take the stress off of you by being able to communicate the negative stress you are dealing with and find help with managing it.
So positive role models, relationships, and interactions are part of living a productive life in terms of mental health. But these two things can also carry over into how your emotional and even spiritual health effect your stress level.
The second pillar in the stress management tower is consistency and formation of a positive emotional and spiritual health practice. As listed above your relationships and social support system can also play a key role in your emotional health. Two proven examples of stress management are the practice of yoga and meditation as well as a sense of spiritual and divine influence within your life.
In a case study done by professional students, the concept of yoga and meditation on your emotional health was conducted. In this study, they started with looking at the 12 dimensions of stress. These dimensions of stress included Role Overload, Role Ambiguity, Role Conflict, Unreasonable Groups and Political Pressures, Frustration, Under Pressure for Exams, Competition in Class, Poor Peer Relations, Financial Burden, Scholarship Requirements, Family-Related Pressures and Course-Related Stress. (Reddy & Ammani, 2016) As the age range was between the ages of 21 to 25, this study was mainly geared towards students in college.
The study was expected to show that yoga and meditation were positive influences on stress levels. The case study results proved to be true to their hypothesized outcome. The data collected after students applied the daily concept of yoga and meditation showed that the 12 dimensions of stress were reduced.
It is clear that there can be a direct correlation between the acts of yoga and meditation and its effects on stress in students’ lives. But what other things can we do to help improve our emotional function?
Another attribution to a positive emotional state is the concept of religion or a divine being. In helping to cope with negative stress in your life a study was conducted that studied the different religious tendencies of a variety of ethnicities. The study showed that there was a direct correlation between those who had a positive spiritual life and the reduction of stress. (Graham, Furr, Flowers, & Burke, 2002)
The improvement in stress levels is thought to be the cause of how the graduate students viewed life. Students that were taking steps to find their meaning and purpose in life tended to have a more positive outlook on life and this caused stress and anxiety levels to drop in the survey. So how can we take strides to achieve a positive emotional health practice?
The practice of good emotional health does require a larger commitment of time than some people have. The study of yoga and meditation improving stress does also prove that we need to take time to rest and relax our nervous systems that are consistently onslaught with technology and stressors. Rest and relaxation are essential parts of forming a sense of self and therefore limit the impacts that negative stress can plague on your body.
Also, another valuable aspect is someone’s sense of purpose and meaning in life which can be improved by a valued spiritual life practice. Now that we have discussed the emotional and mental health of people and how it affects stress let’s take a look at physical health.
Similarly to setting out time to rest and relax it is important to maintain a good diet and exercise routine to help manage stress. In the United States, in particular, it is becoming harder and harder to develop an excellent diet and exercise plan. We have so much to do and it has to be done all at once and the feedback must be given right away for it to be satisfactory in any setting. Both physical activity and diet have been proven countless amounts of time to reduce stress because our bodies should be moving and our intake of food should benefit this concept.
In a study conducted on 63 women, it was proven that a healthy exercise routine should be valued as a buffer to stress. In more specific ways the length of the telomeres in the body was tested to see if the shortened telomeres in the body would reduce stress. (Puterman, et al., 2010) Telomeres are an essential part of human cells that affect how our cells age.
In this aging process, the ways that stress can cause our cells to morph or the physiology differed are directly correlated to the amount of exercise we get. In this case, it was proven that exercising improved the way to telomeres caused cells to age and therefore showing that exercise is profitable in establishing a physical barrier against stress. Stress can cause your body to do many negative things so this buffer that is in place after physical activity is helpful in the short and long-term management of stress.
Another main factor in the concept of good physical health is how you refuel it from physical activity. A healthy dietary plan is a helpful thing in striving for positive physical health. It is common knowledge that fast food and sweets are not good for your overall physical health and many of these have been linked to a disease. It is vital for people to refuel using good carbohydrates such as brown rice and good fats like avocados.
These are only two examples of what a positive diet should look like. Positive diet is again making time to cook whole foods that are nutrient dense and have been proven to show benefits in your physical health down the road. What are a few ways that we can use these two in our lives to reduce stress?
Depending on your physical conditioning level it might be hard for you to jump right into physical activity. There are many ways that you can ease yourself and build your conditioning back up. Examples of easing back into physical activity would be taking walks and being outdoors and physically active in a job setting in some way. Another hard thing to do is set apart time for activity. If you do not have a very active job find ways to do squats or lift things. Take advantage of breaks that you are given to go on walks and stretch out from being behind a desk all day.
Nutrition is a huge factor in how your body will respond to the physical activity you are starting. Make a meal plan at the start of every week and makes times that are designated to eating and refueling your body. Routine and consistency will become very important in your daily life. But eating the right things is also valuable. Let your diet consist of things that are found in nature and limit portion sizes. Not only will these two things help you develop good physical health they will also help with weight management and the prevention of disease.
All of these things that are beneficial to your overall health will also help your body and mind differentiate between good and bad stress and help manage your bad stressors.
So how should we view stress? Stress should be viewed as both positive and negative. There are profitable things and goals that can be accomplished using the aspect or view of positive stress. There will be unavoidable negative stressors in your life but we should view them as unavoidable and seek to help each other manage these things using three core concepts.
These three pillars of stress management are vital to you living a healthier and better life by managing your stress level. Whether it be how your social support system is set up, using rest and relaxation against stressors or using exercise and diet practices, all of these will help limit you stress level as a whole. The easy part is planning but the hardest part will be following