We live in a busy world with many responsibilities, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when things don’t go as anticipated. Additionally, the Internet offers us immediate information – both about family and friends via social media sites, and the world as a whole – and while this makes our lives easier in many respects, it also adds to our level of stress. Ours is a world constantly on the move, and we are expected to keep up with it, which can take a toll on our health.
We want that stress to go away as suddenly as it came, but this isn’t always possible. Rather than becoming impatient, thus increasing tension levels, a better understanding of stress – its origins, immediate and long-term effects, along with how to react (and not react) to events – can help your ability to cope and avoid total meltdown.
Stress is our body’s response to the curveballs life delights in throwing. Whether it’s the loss of a job, money worries, the breakup of a friendship or relationship, or any of the other hundreds of stressors that exist, your body automatically responds by going into fight-or-flight mode. This reaction causes you to be fully alert and prepared for imminent danger, and is the same regardless of how stressful or traumatic an event is.
After this initial response, in which we are often unaware of the full extent of the damage, stress starts to affect various aspects of our lives:
While physical stressors may seem fleeting and therefore easy to overcome, long-lasting stress can lead to distress, depression, anxiety/panic attacks, weight gain or loss, sleep deprivation, chronic pain and/or illness, migraine headaches, elevated blood pressure, immune system suppression, infertility, increased chance of heart attack and stroke, and so forth. This is very hard on your body and can leave you feeling exhausted and vulnerable, which is not a good place to be.
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation help, along with regular exercise and a healthy diet. It’s also important to reach out to people. It’s easy to become a hermit while going through a stressful period, but human contact is important for maintaining a healthy balance in your life. Thanks to social media websites, e-mail and cell phones, your loved ones are rarely ever more than a phone call or mouse click away.
It’s also recommended to make changes to your life when possible, in order to avoid future repeats of your stressful scenario. If money is a stressor, use coupons regularly, teach yourself effective budgeting, or get a second job. If your interpersonal relationships are a source of stress, re-evaluate the importance you place on them and seek counseling when necessary. If your stress is of a personal nature, find a psychologist and unload. By being assertive and proactive about your needs, you will have a healthier outlook on life, and a greater ability to handle things.
The worst thing you can do is focus on your problems to the point that they become all-consuming. While this is a natural tendency, it will only remind you of your worries and reinforce the stress that you are already experiencing. Furthermore, pitying yourself and your situation will lead you to feel like a victim, which will only make things worse. The ancient Roman poet Horace once said, “In times of stress, be bold and valiant,” and this is as true now as it was then.
While it is easy to dispense advice about stress when your own life is going well, it is far more difficult to remember what to do when you find yourself embroiled in an argument or worrying about a growing stack of bills. While the Internet can be a cause of much of your stress, it can also be an effective educational tool, and can serve as a means of staying in touch with family and friends. Thanks to technological advances, you can now become knowledgeable about stress and its effects on the body, along with effective coping mechanisms and pitfalls to avoid, and in the information age, that is always a good thing.