Good health is something most, if not all of us are striving for.

Many of us are more conscious than ever about what we put into and onto our bodies, making the effort to drink more water, eat healthier and be more active. While it is true that making these changes will have a positive effect on our health, there is an aspect of our life that has a massive impact on our health that we often overlook; Stress.

Stress greatly affects our health and wellbeing yet it is something that many of us in the western world have simply accepted as part of everyday life.
Of course, there will always be stressful times in life, but many of us walk around in a permanently stressed state completely unaware of the damage it is causing.

Stress: The hidden obstacle to good health - 22137316 - young black woman having headache isolated on white

Common causes and effects of stress

As there is no single symptom of stress, it regularly goes unnoticed.

Tight neck, tense shoulders, aching jaw, headaches, migraines, backache, stomach ulcers, skin reactions and autoimmune disorders are just some of the ailments associated with stress.

But because many of us have come to accept stress as part of life, more often than not, we pop a few pills and continue to ignore all of the things that are actually causing the stress in our lives.

It can sometimes take years before we realise that the underlying cause of our complaints is stress and chronic or prolonged stress can contribute to more serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer.

In recent times, we have seen self-care, health and well-being being promoted more than ever before. But despite the current wellness movement, in many industries and organisations, a busy and highly stressful culture is still glorified and often rewarded. If you’re not working late, skipping lunch and complaining about having too much to do, you can be considered lazy or lacking ambition.

Simply doing your job to the best of your ability within the hours you are paid for is rarely seen as “enough”.

As well as the working environment, there are other sources of stress in life such as toxic or difficult relationships, financial concerns, being constantly “on the go” or always doing something for others without any time for yourself.

v - Stress: The hidden obstacle to good health

How to tackle stress

Although it is unlikely that we’ll ever eliminate stress from our lives completely, we must find healthier ways to cope with it.

Here are three simple ways you can identify, manage and reduce stress in your life:

 

Journal  
Take some time to write down everything in your life that you are currently unhappy with. You can begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  •         What really annoys you?
  •         Who or what brings out the worst in you?
  •         What environments or situations make you feel on edge, overwhelmed or anxious?

Once you have your answers, highlight the sources of stress that you can remove or reduce instantly or quickly and then continue to work your way through the list to gradually lower the level of stress in your life.

 

Adopt a wellness practice
Yoga, meditation and mindfulness are all known to reduce stress and you can start practicing for as little as five minutes a day.

Alternative wellness practices can include:

  •         Spending time in nature
  •         Running/jogging
  •         Dancing
  •         Colouring
  •         Knitting/crocheting
  •         Baking
  •         Listening to music

The idea is to disengage and disconnect from the daily stresses of life for at least 10 minutes each day.

 

Do less
Like stress, multitasking is something that has been normalised and considered by many as a positive trait. But trying to do too many things at once causes stress so instead of trying to do everything, identify areas in your life where you can begin to do less as well as tasks and commitments you can remove completely.

Doing less will also require you to say no more often, which is something many of us struggle with but need to get better at to reduce our stress levels.

 

April is Stress Awareness Month where the aim is to “increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic.”

Because although more and more people are prioritising their health and well-being, the emphasis tends to be on diet and exercise and we need to become more consciously aware not only of the dangerous impact stress can have on our lives, but also how we can effectively manage and reduce it.

What one thing can you do today to reduce the level of stress in your life?

 

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