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Is Stress A Choice

What makes you stressed?

In the UK, 74% of people say that sometimes they feel so stressed that they face overwhelming or feel unable to cope. Furthermore, 37% of adults who have stress also feel lonely as a result. 48% of people say stress manifests in their behaviour, and they either eat unhealthily, increase their drinking or increase their smoking as a way to cope.

So, what causes stress? 12% of people in a YouGov survey said that feeling that they need to respond to messages instantly was a significant stressor. 60% of 18-24-year-olds feel stress because of the pressure to succeed, and 36% of women say that stress comes from the level of comfort they have with their body image or appearance. Do any of these apply to you?

Society often sees stress as a badge of honour. Your hectic schedule can impress colleagues and show how important you are. The number of responsibilities you have in your personal life is often something that people admire. However, you don’t have to follow society’s warped conventions. You can choose to stress out and be frantic, or you can choose a calmer, more relaxed path.

Is stress a benefit?

Our bodies are equipped for stress. This comes from our primal fight or flight response. When we face a life-threatening danger, our brains and bodies produce stress hormones that can help to increase blood flow. This helps to increase oxygen in the body so that you have the energy and mental responses to keep your body safe and, importantly, alive.

However, the typical stress we experience today is not usually life-threatening, but our brain still reacts in the same way. Consequently, the stress hormone, cortisol, can weaken the immune system and can cause illness and disease. It can also severely impact your mental health. What’s more, the stress response in our bodies was designed only to kick in for rare, life-threatening situations.

So, while this stress response can save your life, it is not equipped for the everyday stressors you experience. Stress should be infrequent for our health and wellbeing.

How to make stress a choice for you

You are in control of your stress

Instead of thinking of your endless responsibilities, it helps to shift the mindset to being ‘response-able’. You don’t instantly have to add another worry onto your responsibilities, because someone asks. Instead, you have the power to give a logical and reasoned response. When you start to respond rather than be responsible, you can offload the pressures and expectations.

For example, someone asks you to complete a project at work when you already have too much to do. You can respond to this person by explaining your workload and telling them you can prioritise this project, but another project will need to be pushed back. Alternatively, you can ask to delegate the project. By giving options, you are not rude, but you are working with the person to find the best solution.

Take power over your thoughts

It is only the things you think about that cause you stress. If you don’t think about them, they are not a stressor. Therefore, the cause of stress is how you think about things. Once you take charge of your thoughts, you can begin to take back control over your stress.

For example, you may be stressing about money. However, worrying about money for hours at a time isn’t going to bring you more money. Worrying and causing yourself stress does not solve the problem. As soon as you notice yourself worrying about an issue, change your mindset or rephrase the thought, so it is more positive.

The negative thought; ‘I don’t have enough money.’

Can switch to a positive such as; ‘I have enough money for my life as it is now’ or ‘I can bring more money into my life’ or ‘My life is rich as it is’.

Finally, focus on the activities that reduce your stress. If you feel stress coming on, find ways to calm your mind. Healthy eating, exercise and self-care can all help to reduce your stress levels. Remember, it is OK for work to be busy or your social life to be hectic, stress is bound to happen, but make sure you have the tools at hand to control the stress, make logical choices and find ways to relax in a way that provides long-term benefits to your wellbeing.


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