Is Your Stress 'Alarm System' on 24/7? Reset and Recalibrate.
Part of Stress Awareness Month is recognizing that a moderate amount of stress does have its upsides. It motivates us to perform well and helps keep us safe.
“Our brain is hard-wired with an alarm system for our protection. When we perceive a threat, it signals our body to release a burst of hormones that increases our heart rate, raises our blood pressure and puts us into a 'fight or flight response,’ ” said Kim Hurst, a training consultant and performance coach with Best Care Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Once that threat is gone, our bodies are meant to return to a relaxed state.
“Unfortunately, the non-stop complications of modern life – its demands and expectations – mean some people’s alarm systems rarely shut off,” Hurst says.
Over time, chronic stress can lead to serious health issues. That includes physical problems like heart disease, insomnia, digestive issues and immune system challenges as well as serious mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression.
"Many people continue to separate mental health from physical health and vice versa. The reality is they can't be separate. They’re two sides of the same coin," Hurst says. “There is no health without mental health.”
Reset and Recalibrate
A number of stress management tools can help us reset and recalibrate our alarm systems so we're not always on high alert.
Stress-reducing strategies from the team at Best Care EAP:
- Change your mind about how you relate to people and situations. It's your choice to react to any situation constructively or with negative thinking. You can choose to let something irritate you, or you can take it in stride.
- Give yourself a break. Scheduling time for fun and relaxation gives the body and mind a break from daily routines and pressures. If you have a job that requires taking care of others, give yourself permission to do something just for yourself.
- Get moving. Brisk exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and tension.
• Reward yourself with positive feedback and leisure activities.
• Relax with music, walking or talking with family and friends.
• Eat healthy and avoid foods high in fat and sugar.
Need Help Managing Stress?
If you are struggling to find a technique that works for you and the stress is impacting your health in any way, don’t wait to seek professional assistance. "Counseling can be of great assistance to build these new habits and techniques, but we truly need to be proactive," Hurst says.
Take steps to manage stress before it damages your health, relationships or quality of life. Check with your employer to see if you have access to benefits through the Best Care Employee Assistance Program.