There is a new epidemic sweeping the world, and it is not the virus. It´s stress and anxiety. So many people now experience stress and anxiety around the globe, and it becomes the new normal. Your health is at risk now more than ever especially if you don’t know how to relieve stress and anxiety and where it comes from.
Why are stress and anxiety bad for your health?
The inner voice preventing you from taking steps to change is keeping you from reaching your full potential.
Some people never get satisfied and constantly want something new. They keep themself busy ignoring this unhealthy behavior, so they don´t need to think about what they really want in life. This is what makes you unhappy and may even be burned out.
What makes use feel bad and is mostly related to stress, anxiety, and triggers that are often long-term and ongoing. The problem is we carry a lot of angry feelings without knowing a way to get rid of them. Envy is one part of that where many strives to be better and have the desire for more and to be someone special. This happens more and more through social media where comparing with others is a normal thing.
The problem is most of us consider stress and anxiety as normal and harmless. But in reality it is so serious and it has major health consequences.
When we experience stress, our brain releases toxic hormones that damage higher brain functions and consequently handicap our mental performance. It also harms your physical health like research shows that stress weakens your immune system it as well damages your heart and even chromosomes.
Our higher brain is named the prefrontal cortex, where the part of human intelligence is. That means the executive brain where big decisions are made. The prefrontal cortex enables social intelligence, helping you understand other people's emotions, and awakes your empathy.
But your stress hormones disable these high-order functions. The consequence is your brain functionality is dumbed down, which is why you may make poor decisions or mental missteps.
The brain is made up of the same parts, but it develops differently in each individual. The information in your brain is transmitted through neurons. Each time you perform an action, the information your brain collects about the activity causes relevant neurons to communicate with each other.
Stress hormones serve as a connection between your brain cells and shrink your brain's neural networks.
Learning new things makes the connection between neurons grow stronger and stronger; the more neurons communicate, the stronger the bonds become. This is what lets you do certain actions automatically.
By acquiring new skills, you can purposefully reshape your neural connections to make yourself happier. With experience, you can rewire your neurons. For example, the more you do a certain sport and enjoy doing it, the more you´ll naturally see sporting activities as fun and rewarding.
Where emotional stress and anxiety come from?
The culture and your family interactions are the main factors in how you act, and it is the biggest influencer of your brain.
Our emotions and behaviors are affected by the hormones serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, which increase our energy level, reduce stress and make use of seeking rewards. However, both too many and too few of these hormones make people suffer.
Our ancestors only experienced stress in unusual or dangerous situations, but we deal with it daily.
We blame negative feelings on external factors like our circumstances or environment. But when you make yourself aware of your stress and anxiety, you realize that you create most of it yourself.
The brains retain negative memories more effectively than positive ones, so it can react better to a similar situation if it occurs again. However, today this warning system is useless because we can´t run away from the causes of stress we experience from work, money, or family.
We are literally bombarded with situations we feel are threatening, but we can´t let go of the stress we get.
As an example, working toward a deadline, you get anxious about missing it or that you are doing bad work. The brain will store this information, and the next time you have a deadline, you´ll recall these bad emotions. And this happens even you know you still have enough time to complete your work.
If you live in this constant state of alarm, it has physical and mental consequences. While physical stress may don´t actually makes you sick, the body's reaction is the real problem.
Mental stress absorbs your energy and willpower and leaves us exhausted and unmotivated. It makes our immune system more vulnerable to disease. Many illnesses like heart diseases, cancer, and diabetes, and many others are directly related to stress. And when you sick you are likely to get even more stressed.
What can you do against stress and anxiety?
When you adjust to the right attitude, you will rewire your brain and find relief from your stressful thoughts.
A Brain can reorganize itself, creating new neural pathways and expanding its neural networks. To create these new pathways, you simply need to change the way on how you think and the way you view your own thoughts.
You need to make a habit of not believing your own negative and stressful thoughts and instead, experience peace and calmness.
When you´re stuck in a traffic jam, it maybe be a stressful experience for you. And you might become angry and aggressive.
But what if you simply stay calm instead of thinking that you lose time in the traffic jam, you can think about things in your life you didn´t have time before. You might find a new idea that can improve your life.
Changing the attitude is also about letting go of fear. Stress is an expression of fear, while in ancient times, fear prevented us from danger and predators today, it is much safer, and many of our fears aren´t real. Rather we construct them in our head and discover that a vast majority don´t even come true.
As we worry, we essentially fear that bad things will happen, and this fear means stress. However, this is unnecessary stress.
You should re-evaluate your worries and think about how to manage them better. When you have stress-provoking thoughts, observe them. Don´t interfere with your negative thoughts, just be aware that they are in your head, but not in reality.
When you realize you are capable of dealing with this kind of situation, it can become much easier to come up with a good plan and save the day.
In a stressful situation, you can make three choices.
- Change it: You need to identify where you have influence and how you can use it.
- Leave it: Sometimes, you can simply walk away and close that stressful chapter of your life. This process can be painful, but it is sometimes necessary.
- Accept it exactly as it is. Often there is a situation you can do nothing about it. With Acceptance, you choose not to complain or judge and not to demand change.
The hardest choice is to accept it requires a lot of mental effort and a powerful determination. You need to embrace that there are things in your life you can´t completely control.
If you find yourself in such a situation and feel totally powerless, remember you can influence it by changing your attitude.
- Start your day of quietly and in peace, and don´t rush out the door. Make sure to calm your mindset to manage the day's challenges.
- Take about 10 minutes of your time and find a quiet place where you are relaxed.
- Close your eyes and listen to your breathing.
- Think about what you are grateful for the like the people you love and the opportunities you have.
- And commit yourself to have a positive and productive day with a peaceful attitude that you won´t get easily disrupted.
If you use this morning routine, you can minimize your stress throughout the day.
Another complementary strategy is taking a thirty-second “time out” a few times a day. It is like a peace switch that can easily flip when you need it or when you are waiting for something, be it a friend or the elevator.
Whatever ever you are doing and what thought you might have disengaged from it for a moment and allow yourself to relax. You need to clear your mind by letting go of all your thoughts just for a moment. Do this by taking a slow and easy breath and experiencing the feeling of peace that washes over you.
The longer you use these tools, the better outcomes you get.
How to relieve stress and anxiety with mindfulness?
When you focus on getting the most out of your brain, you can get back to your creative, intelligent, kind, and high performing self.
However, reshaping your brain isn´t easy; it takes a lot of concentration and repetitive work. There are many different ways you can reduce stress, and practicing mindfulness is one effective solution.
With mindfulness, you can self-regulate thoughts and emotions. It is about accepting that your mind is always changing and learning to observe your thoughts without being too critical.
You need to acknowledge your emotions and don´t hide from them. As you reach a state of total awareness, you can process your past and current experiences in a more straightforward way. If you don´t deal with your emotions, you risk falling into an endless cycle. It is why people work more to distract themselves from the stress of working.
To avoid falling into that trap by taking a step back. When you have a clearer perspective on your bad behavior, you can easily overcome it.
To practice mindfulness, you can use the RAIN method to identify your emotions and then disengage from them:
- Recognition: It starts with recognizing what is troubling you. Maybe the fear of not meeting deadlines or anything that is bothering you. If you clearly identify the problem, it will help you to calm down.
- Acceptance: You need to accept the fear and remember it is just an emotion, and you can take charge of it.
- Investigation: Try to identify what these negative emotions are doing to your body. Do you get easily get demotivated? Are you not getting sleep? Focus on your physical sensations to better understand your feelings.
- Non-Identification: Finally, step away from this emotion by not identifying yourself with it but letting it pass.
Another quite simple exercise you can do is stopping and noticing where you also can expand on it. This can help you to calm your mind and strengthen your focus. You can every now then stoping five seconds and notice what is happening in your mind.
When our mind wanders, we slip into autopilot as we go through the day. This exercise helps you bring back your focus.
Concentrate on one of your senses. Close your eyes and listen to sounds around you while focusing on your breath. This will help you to detect any negative emotions, and then you can start dealing with the emotions more directly.
The more you make these exercises a part of your routine, the more it breaks your destructive habits while establishing new patterns or healthier behavior.
Of course, practicing mindfulness may not be for you because we are all different you may prefer yoga, meditation, or simply taking a long walk.
No matter what you choose, it is important to find your personal anchor that calms you down when your emotions are troubling you. Also, make sure to be aware of your feelings to fully live in the present.
You need to accept your emotions are natural; it is the first way towards developing a method to better deal with them.
Learn to read your body's signals and develop practices to calm yourself and regain your strength. Practise mindfulness or a non-judgmental way of paying attention to your emotions.
It is essential you keep repeating these stress-reducing techniques to rewire your brain.
What is also helpful is to analyze yourself by using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This helps you to re-evaluate how you think to change the patterns in dysfunctional behavior. To practice CBT, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is happening now, and how does it make you feel?
- What automatic thoughts and physical sensations you are having? Is your heart pounding, or are you sweating?
- What information might help balance the situation, and how can you prevent this in the future?
The answers to these questions will help you avoid being too tough on yourself, and you find realistic solutions to your problem. But only you can choose to take responsibility for your own life.