Stress can simmer over time, hit you like a sudden jolt, or blast you out of the blue every so often. Here’s expert advice for taming stress.
Type of stress: Ambient anxiety
Out of all the types of stress, ambient anxiety can be potentially chronic, and it gets fed by current events and world unrest. It can strike anytime you turn on the news or hear about someone else’s ill fortune. Ambient anxiety is not empathy, but rather, a stress-laden, intense reaction to bad news—a nearby robbery, for example—coupled with fear that it will happen to you or to a loved one. “People who suffer from ambient anxiety have not developed an internal psychological and emotional barrier. Things they see and hear penetrate them to their core,” explains Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist, Fran Walfish, PsyD. Her tips for eradicating ambient anxiety include lots of self-care, plus limiting your daily intake of news. “It also helps to avoid negative people. When trying to keep a positive attitude, you must avoid people who thrive on negativity,” she adds. Try these simple ways to make managing stress much easier.
Type of stress: Work
According to the World Health Organization, work-related stress causes ill health, reduced productivity, and poor motivation. It also increases on-the-job accidents. “A recent study in Preventive Medicine, indicated that prolonged exposure to work-related stress is linked to an increased likelihood of specific cancers, including lung, colon, rectal, stomach, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” adds Dr. Walfish. Ways to combat work-related stress include physical activity. Commit to exercising, at least 30 minutes a day. This can be a brisk walk during your lunch hour, or as part of your commute home. It also helps to turn off the gossip machine. Avoid buying into or adding to negative feelings at work by discussing the situation with co-workers. Instead, discuss your feelings, calmly, and powerfully, with your boss.
Type of stress: Parenting
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Stress and parenting go together, in fact, the American Psychological Association even has an index for it. Whether you’re worrying that your baby isn’t hitting his or her milestones, are scared that your teen is dabbling in drugs, or feel concern that your college grad is spending too much time texting, and not enough time looking for work, parental stress can be all-pervasive, eliminating your ability to enjoy your own life.
You’re never going to stop worrying about your kids completely, but one way to reduce the impact of parental stress is through healthy habits. “The best way to deal with parental stress, and all types of stress, is to follow a holistic lifestyle. Healing stress occurs from inside. Cleansing the mind of rubbish emotions gathered during stress is a must to recover,” says Aditi G Jha, MD, of JustDoc.com. Dr. Jha recommends exercise, meditation, and eating healthy food. “Sleep is an essential, non-negotiable aspect to stress reduction. A proper night’s sleep is a must, for the body to replenish energy, and function optimally. When the body is happy, the mind is certainly happy,” she adds. Make sure to avoid these ways to reduce stress that can backfire.
Type of stress: Urban living
A study done at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute indicates that the travails of city life are associated with a greater, overall lifetime risk for mood disorders and anxiety. According to the study, the sounds, smells, and experience of urban living impacts significantly upon the amygdala and cingulate cortex—two areas of the brain tasked with regulating emotion and stress. Moving to more rural surroundings is one way to cope, but another, more practical solution may be allowing your brain to take a much-needed vacation, daily, through meditation.
“Practices that train us to tune into these expressions of stress, such as mindfulness meditation, offer a way to effectively manage stress,” says Jason Thomas, LEP, an educational psychologist, and meditation teacher at Evenflow Meditation. “This training gives us a greater capacity to be compassionately aware of our thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and behaviors as they are happening. With this compassionate awareness, we give ourselves an opportunity to step out of the stress cycle and regain a sense of emotional balance.”
Type of stress: Childhood trauma
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The types include sexual abuse, natural disasters, war, and automobile crashes. It can result in lifelong consequences, including an inability to regulate emotion, difficulty focusing, memory problems, and chronic stress. Attempting to manage the stress of childhood trauma, ideally, begins in childhood. However, many adults find themselves still grappling with unresolved issues dating back years, or decades. Working with a therapist can help you identify the underlying cause of your stress, plus provide tools for building resilience. Medications, prescribed either long, or short term, can also help. “Chronic stress can be managed with coping strategies, but serious, institutional methods may become necessary,” says Gabriella I. Farkas, MD, PhD, founder of Pearl Behavioral Health & Medicine, and Pearl Medical Publishing. “Medicines like Celexa, Prozac, Sertraline, and Citalopram (to name a few) can be prescribed for symptom reduction, and therapies (including relaxation therapy, psychoanalysis, and cognitive-behavioral therapy) can help analyze the causes of stress, and address possible lifestyle changes to attack the stress at its origin.”
Type of stress: Money woes
If you can’t make the mortgage, save a penny for retirement, or come up with cash to feed your kids, extreme stress is bound to occur. This type of stress can be chronic, resulting in depression, feelings of helplessness, and even heart disease or cancer. Money-related stress is not easy to fix but does respond to positive lifestyle changes. If unemployment is the issue, working with a non-profit employment counselor is a solid, first step. If you have some money in the bank but are living above your means, it can help to analyze your spending habits versus your income, and working with a financial planner, to make adjustments. Be aware of these telltale signs you’re more stressed than you realized.
Type of stress: Life changes
Clearly, huge events such as the death of a spouse, personal injury or illness, and divorce, can trigger stress. But even seemingly minor events, such as moving or getting a traffic ticket can exacerbate stress levels. The American Institute of Stress lists these and other life events as contributors to stress, and they can all add up to a significant impact on your anxiety levels.
While it’s true that dealing with all types of stress is part of life, recognizing just how stressed out you are, and why, can be a good first step in coping. You may not be able to change your stress-causing reality, but dealing with it is within your grasp. Having solid relationships can help. Making sure to cultivate and maintain friendships can greatly help reduce stress, by supplying a sympathetic platform for talking it out.
Engaging in fun activities is also important. Do what you enjoy, whether it’s a day trip, museum excursion, book club discussion, or concert. Just make sure to find activities that get you out of the house, and keep the Netflix binges to a minimum. Outdoor events give you a reason to look your best and focus on something other than the stressor at hand. Now that you know which type of stress you’re suffering from, make sure you know the silents signs that your stress is making you sick.