Stress affects our body and brain over time, and if left unaddressed it can cause significant damage. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, between 75 and 90 percent of doctor visits are for stress-related conditions. Everyday stress can alter our ability to plan and do our job well. It gets in the way of effective communication, threatens our belief in our own abilities and causes depression and other mental and physical conditions.
1. Be Aware of the Impact
Workloads, deadlines, limited time to yourself, traffic, running late, money, health issues - the list of everyday stressors goes on. The impact of toxic stress can drastically affect our health and leave any one of us on the brink of burnout.
Even when stressors are largely unavoidable, that does not mean they are impossible to overcome. First, identify what stresses you the most and work on understanding the early signs of chronic stress like fatigue, depression, trouble sleeping, digestive problems and skin conditions. Then, accurately assess your stress to understand the levels at where it affects your brain and body.
2. Take Charge: Practice Emotional Regulation
Delaying your response to stress can might result in worsening reactions or deteriorating mental and physical health. Take short breaks, and work on making time every day for physical activity. These will help release tension and activate natural endorphins.
Practicing emotional regulation is also key to managing stress, as it can help you pursue your goals even when you feel anxious. When you feel stressed, try to take some time to do something enjoyable and engage in positive behaviors. Another great way to regulate emotions on the spot is to step back and look at the big picture. Being able to alter your thoughts and reactions builds your confidence in your own ability to cope with stressful situations.
3. Train your Brain to Breathe
Zen monks who reach the highest states of meditation and age gracefully reduce their breathing to about six breaths per minute. The rest of us take 15 and more breaths per minute. Ancient practices appreciate breathing as a foundation for wellness. Today, science tells us why.
Stress starts in the brain, which spreads its damaging effects throughout the body. Our breath is an indication of physiological states in our bodies. Physicians and researchers all over the world use it as a baseline for the measurement of stress and anxiety.
Taking a few deep breaths when you feel stressed is, at best, a quick fix. Regular practice of 0.1 Hz breathing trains the brain for a better response to stress (parasympathetic nervous system), an antidote to the long-term toxic effects of stress on the brain and body.
It is important to know you can take action against your stress by paying attention to your physical and emotional health. When you take care of yourself, you are better equipped to handle stress and manage how it affects your career and personal life in the future.
About the Author
Celine Vignal is the co-founder of Zenytime, a technology company on a mission to help people reduce stress and feel better using their breath. Celine's mission is to make conscious breathing the new walking.
She has a Master's Degree in Marketing from Rabelais University (France), Davidson College. She was named one of the 50 most influential French in the U.S. in 2010.