"If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress, and tension. And if you didnít ask me, Iíd still have to say it."
George Burns, Comedian
What is Stress Costing You?
Stress: Pressure, strain, or force that tends to distort a body; a factor that induces bodily or mental tension.
- Are you one of the millions of people being negatively affected by stress?
- Do you know how much your stress level is costing you in terms of your physical, mental, and emotion wellness?
- Do you know what is stressing you and why? If not, why not?
- Do you know what to do about it?
Stress levels are reaching epidemic levels and little is being done about it. But the good news is you donít have to wait for someone else to determine your stress levels; you can do that on your own. And, you can immediately take action steps (if needed) to better manage the stress in your life.
Before I go into detail about what you can do to reduce your stress, here is some current research.
- In a 2005 UK study, 1 out of 5 people felt their jobs were extremely stressful, to the point of illness.
- The UK also documented that self-reported, work-related stress accounted for over 13 million lost working days in the past 12 months.
- In a Boston University study, women who avoided conflict with their spouse had four times as much chance of heart disease and early death. Their avoidance actually increased their stress.
- In the American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology study, it was confirmed that prolonged exposure to certain stressors can result in permanent change to the bodyís sympathetic nervous system, including blood pressure and heart rate. Those factors have been confirmed to include social stressors like bullying, job and family-related pressure, and other related elements.
- A Florida State University study linked increased depression and anxiety disorders to long-term stress factors.
- A Health Psychology investigation confirmed the link between stress and a reduced immune system.
- A European Union research project confirmed that work-related stress was negatively affecting 1 out of 3 workers in the EU.
The negative effects of stress are not limited to adults. Stress it is also affecting our children.
So with all this stress in our lives, I want to encourage you to not be stressed about your stress. Why? Because your level of stress is mostly in your control.
But first, how does stress manifest itself and what are some areas on which you can reflect, in terms of stress factors?
Influenced by the elements present in our lives, our stress levels are way more complex than being just work- or home-related. Stress manifests itself in many physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms, which can include headaches, fatigue, feelings of being out of control, and insomnia.
To reduce your stress levels, it is important that you uncover all your potential sources. Here are four categories that you should assess to determine your current stress levels.
- Interpersonal Stress Levels
All your relationships in your life -- work, family, and friends -- are either increasing or decreasing your stress levels. Understanding your interpersonal boundaries and preferences can highly influence your stress levels in this category.
- Nutritional Stress Levels
Our nutritional habits are strongly influencing our overall stress levels. The old saying, you are what you eat, has never been truer. Today, our many unhealthy food choices help create overweight individuals and even morbid obesity.
- Health and Activity Stress Levels
What you do and donít do are also highly influencing your stress levels. One study suggests that up to 50% of the population is sleep-deprived, causing our bodies to never fully rejuvenate. Regular exercise has been linked to stress reduction and an increased immune system through the additional endorphin production that exercise helps produce.
- Time-Stress Levels
Is it just me or have we lost the time margins in our lives? With families plus full-time professions, we no longer have room to maneuver so, when things happen -- and they will -- you have increased stress related to lack of time margins. Even children are becoming more stressed due to overpacked schedules and demands.
- Occupational Stress
Much research has been linked to job-related stress. We must also acknowledge the growing percentage of the population that is now self-employed. Whether you are employed or self-employed, if you donít enjoy what you do, you will have increased stress.
Money -- or lack of it -- is cited as one of the most common stressors in both employed and self-employed individuals. In addition, environmental conditions such as the pollution of the air, land, and water can impact your overall stress level.
Your stress, no matter the source, will increase if you feel you have no options or no hope of improving your life.
Remember: You can influence the majority of the contributing elements in all the above stress categories.
The Action Steps below offer some strategies for your consideration. We suggest, however, that you donít pursue trying to reduce your stress until you have the answers to the following two questions. Why? The answers are required to ensure your stress-reduction success.
1. Why is it important for you to reduce your stress and improve your overall wellness?
2. If you are successful in reducing your stress, what will be some key benefits to you? In other words, why should you bother to change your habits?
Finally, I encourage you to complete a stress self-assessment. An assessment process can:
- help you establish a benchmark of your current stress levels; and
- provide you with immediate strategies to help reduce your stress levels.
Action Steps to Assess and Help Reduce Stress Levels
1. What is stress costing you?
2. In your opinion, what is stressing you in your life in the four areas of Interpersonal, Nutritional, Health, and Time and Occupational Stress? Make a list of all the potential items.
3. Benchmark your stress levels by completing a self-assessment. Consider taking an assessment every 6 to 12 months to track your progress.
4. Lighten up! Individuals who are always serious generally have more stress in their lives.
5. Introduce more humor into your life. When participants watched a 15 minute humorous video, their stress level reduced.
6. In research studies, the immune systems of optimistic individuals were stronger than pessimistic individuals. For certain individuals, an attitude adjustment might require a new way of thinking.
7. You control most of the factors that contribute to your stress levels and your overall wellness. It is your responsibility -- not the fault of your condition or situation!
8. Donít stress yourself over your stress levels. Simply allow yourself to move at your own pace, as long as it is in the direction of improvement.
9. Encourage others to take responsibility to reduce their stress levels because, in many cases, their stress will be adding to yours!
10. Make sure you have clearly outlined the benefits of reducing your stress levels. With good reasons and goals, it will be easier to stay on track.
Until next time, keep Living On Purpose,
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Ken Keis, MBA, CPC, is an internationally known author, speaker, and consultant. He is President and CEO of CRG Consulting Resource Group International, Inc., Many professionals herald CRG as the Number One global resource center for Personal and Professional Development.
For information on CRG Resources, please visit crgleader.com
For information on Kenís Training and Speaking Programs, please visit kenkeis.com
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