I get headaches when I’m stressed, so I jumped on the Internet to read about stress-related health issues. It doesn’t look good out there for the chronically stressed out.
WedMD posted this uplifting stat: One survey of recent studies found that people who had stress related to their jobs -- like demanding work with few rewards -- had an 80 percent higher risk of developing depression within a few years than people with lower stress.
Now I'm stressing about dropping my stress level before I'm also dealing with depression, diabetes, asthma, heart disease and premature aging. Yes, all of these -- and more -- are the results of unchecked stress.
We can't eliminate stress from our lives, but we can manage it. Here are 10 tips if you, like me, want to get a better handle on things.
1. Don't overcommit. Make sure you've scheduled not only time to do an activity, but time for the unexpected as well.
2. Pinpoint the causes of stress and address them. Knowing you get stressed at work is too vague. However, knowing you juggle too many calls in the morning so it throws off your schedule, is something you can work with.
3. Deep breathing. When you do become stressed, take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing helps oxygenate the body, and that includes your brain.
4. Stay positive and keep a realistic attitude. We often stress when we feel out of control. Although we can't control some things, we can control how we respond to them.
5. Express yourself. Bottling up feelings is a fast track to stress. Share your feelings. Talk to someone if necessary.
6. Eat well and exercise regularly. When we're stressed we want comfort foods. A little is fine. A lot can lead to more problems than just stress. A healthy body can deal better with stress.
7. Plan breaks. I used to think, How can breaks work? I'll just get farther behind. But when I had to take breaks due to eyestrain, I found I came back rejuvenated and more productive.
8. Get enough sleep. Your body needs to rest to regenerate, especially if it's had a stressful day.
9. Watch the caffeine. Caffeine may be a great pick-me-up, but it's not ideal for handling ongoing stress.
10. Be proactive. Know the symptoms and be aware of potential stressful situations.
Stress is part of life, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm our lives. Take control and put your health first. You’ll be happier and more productive.
Diane Mettler has been a manager for nearly 20 years. She's also a freelance writer and editor--with hundreds of her articles published in a variety of magazines—and teaches writing at the University of Washington.