Today is National Stress Awareness Day. For real though, we don’t need a day to remind us that we have stress. It’s everywhere. On some days it seems that the stress starts from the second we wake up and doesn’t stop even when our heads hit the pillow at night. Stress dreams can plague sleep leaving you to wake even more tired than when the night began. That’s life though. Right? It’s how we live. No big deal. Everyone is stressed. But listen carefully, if you aren’t careful stress will kill you. When stressed, we kick off the flight or flight response in our bodies. It protects us from mortal danger. Here’s the rub, when our brains tell us to fight or flee our organs respond by creating adrenaline and dialing up the engines of our organs. In today’s society many of us function like this even though our bodies aren’t in mortal danger. This isn’t healthy. In fact it’s dangerous. Sure, it’s not like stepping on the third rail dangerous but it is like playing 10,000 games of Russian Roulette and never getting the bullet. The odds keep increasing that one day…bang.
Here are some facts from the Global Organization for Stress
- The Stress in America survey results show that adults continue to report high levels of stress and many report that their stress has increased over the past year – American Psychological Association.
- 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year – American Psychological Association.
- Approximately 1 out of 75 people may experience panic disorder – National Institutes of Mental Health.
- Stress is a top health concern for U.S. teens between 9th and 12th grade, psychologists say that if they don’t learn healthy ways to manage that stress now, it could have serious long-term health implications – American Psychological Association.
- 80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress. And 42% say their co-workers need such help – American Institute of Stress.
- Stress levels in the workplace are rising with 6 in 10 workers in major global economies experiencing increased workplace stress. With China (86%) having the highest rise in workplace stress – The Regus Group
- Alarmingly 91% of adult Australians feel stress in at least one important area of their lives. Almost 50% feel very stressed about one part of their life – Lifeline Australia.
- Australian employees are absent for an average of 3.2 working days each year through stress. This workplace stress costs the Australian economy approximately $14.2 billion – Medibank
- An estimated 442,000 individuals in Britain, who worked in 2007/08 believed that they were experiencing work-related stress at a level that was making them ill – Labour Force Survey.
- Approximately 13.7 million working days are lost each year in the UK as a result of work-related illness at a cost of £28.3 billion per year – National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
- Depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide – World Health Organization
- Fewer than 25% of those with depression world-wide have access to effective treatments – World Health Organization.
- See more at: http://www.gostress.com/stress-facts/#sthash.DCEnJa4d.dpuf
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Just as easy as it is to live a life under stress we can take small steps to reduce it. Here are some tips that you can take to slow it down and live longer:
- Breathe. Take a deep breath in for a count of four and an exhale for a count of four.
- Yoga. Any physical activity for 30 minutes a day will help reduce stress. I’m of supporter of yoga for stress reduction because yoga itself is the idea of yoking our body, mind and breathing. In yoga we talk about moving through the asana practice with steadiness and ease. By controlling how we breathe as we increase intensity we are training our bodies how to deal with stress off of our mats.
- Laugh. Check out the benefits courtesy of the Mayo Clinic: A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:
- Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
- Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
- Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
- Eat well. When we fuel our bodies with good food we are better equipped to thrive. I love what Michael Pollan says about a healthy diet, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Keep it simple.
- Sleep. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Keep your electronic devices out of bed. Keep the TV off (ideally- don’t use one). Keep the bedroom a sanctuary of peace.
Today take a minute, take a second and remember that it’s okay even when it’s not. But by managing the stress we can make better decisions and live a better life.