and Living with Stress
The words "managing stress", almost sound like you're admitting defeat. Why would a person want to learn how to manage stress? I want to eliminate stress! But stress is not only a reality of our 21st Century lifestyles, it is an integral part of normal aging. So what I want to present here are some practical tips on how we can learn to ease the stress that is ever-present in our lives. Managing stress is about understanding and doing simple things to make our lives less stressed. It's step one in a two-step stress reduction plan.
Reduce the Impact of Change
It's no secret— the older we get, the more difficult it is for us to adapt to change quickly. As we age, we simply experience stress more readily whenever we face change. We're talking about things like: changes in plans, changes in established patterns, changes in relationships, changes in physical surroundings, etc. Young people flex easily and "roll with the punches". With normal aging, change becomes a significant event, a mountain to climb, a sea to cross. All of these are expressions that remind us of stress-producing circumstances.
How can you become more effective at managing stress that accompanies change? Don't allow yourself to get stuck in a rut. Rather than trying to isolate yourself from change, be proactive — make change a part of your life. Two things can help:
1) Regularly spend time with young people
2) Be learning something new every day
Spend Time With Those Who Thrive on Change
Whether it's your grandkids, kids in your neighborhood or church, or if you get involved in a service ministry to children, get close to some kids. Get close enough to really listen to them. (Remember how much you wanted older people to listen to you?) Don't just stand back and judge the younger generation, get involved in their lives. Lovingly relating to these kids will help to decelerate the elevation of stress that accompanies aging.
To Learn is to Live
Secondly, in order to be more effective at managing stress, always be learning something new every day. Read books; not just novels, but books and articles that will challenge your ways of thinking and behaving. Get involved in a new activity — something that will stretch your abilities. Instead of isolating yourself from change, get involved in changing yourself. If you're always learning new things you're always changing within. You're changing how you view the world, how you relate to people and things, and how you spend your time and money.
And the best thing to read is the Bible. What are you learning new about God, about what's important to him, about history and current events from his perspective, and about the future? God wants to effect positive changes in your life through the scriptures. God is in the life-changing business! And it will involve changes that bring peace and freedom, not stress and bondage.
Maintain a Healthy Balance of Adequate Exercise and Rest
Since it is precisely the lack of physical activity during stress-producing situations that causes so many people to experience chronic stress, it seems clear that exercise will help to relieve the problem. Here's another great reason for you to adopt a regular exercise regimen — stress management. Don't put off the implementation of your own reasonable exercise routine. Check here for help on getting started.
In addition to regular exercise, adequate time for sleep, rest, and rejuvenation is essential for managing stress. Deeper sleep begins with good, regular exercise. (Another good reason for exercise!) Studies show that regular sleep habits significantly contribute to sleep quality. Evidence also indicates that those who get eight hours of sleep beginning at 10 pm are more rested and energized that those getting the same amount of sleep beginning at 1 am. So, to get the necessary rest and rejuvenation that God intended for your times of sleeping, do these three things:
1) Exercise regularly to strengthen your muscles
2) Go to bed at the same time every night
3) Get to sleep no later than 10 pm
Drink Plenty of H2O
Would you be surprised to discover that drinking adequate water will aid you in managing stress? It's true! When there is not enough water in your body for the proper functioning of all your cells, some of the cells will become dehydrated. Dehydration equals stress, because your brain cells do not have the water necessary for the generation of electrical energy. Many of the functions of the brain that depend upon this type of energy become inefficient, and make a person more susceptible to fear, anxiety, insecurity, and depression.
Once your body experiences this kind of stress, it will mobilize as if it had encountered a "fight or flight" circumstance. The typical bodily stress responses will "mop up" some of the already low water reserves of the body. Thus, not only will dehydration cause stress, but the resultant stress will cause further dehydration, exacerbating the problem. Managing stress is one of the many advantages of drinking an adequate amount of water; click here for more benefits of drinking water.
Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption
Have you ever said: "I need a triple shot," or "I can't function till I have my morning coffee"? If so, you may be hooked on caffeine. And what's so bad about that, you ask? For a person interested in managing stress and its accompanying acceleration of aging, avoiding drinks containing caffeine and alcohol is a wise move. For one thing, coffee, caffeine-containing soft drinks, and alcohol do not hydrate your body. They are, instead dehydrating agents, because of their strong diuretic action on your kidneys. You trick your body when you drink them, for you may think you are quenching your thirst, but you are actually depleting your body's necessary water reserves.
Perhaps you, like many people, think that beverages containing caffeine give you a jolt of energy. The truth is caffeine gives you stress, which feels like energy when you're tired. When we face stress, our bodies react in a way in which we become, among a host of other things, much more alert. This may be helpful for a time, but the "other things" that accompany stress, take their toll on our bodies. Take the time to review what we've said about the damaging effects of chronic stress, and realize that drinking caffeine-laden beverages, does this kind of harm to our bodies. Do you want to be more successful at managing stress? The less caffeine you drink the less you will age from stress.
There is a similar story with drinking alcoholic drinks. The consumption of alcohol causes the pituitary gland to suppress the production of a hormone called vasopressin. This important hormone regulates the flow of water into the cells in the body. When the the circulation of vasopressin is lowered, dehydration occurs throughout the cells of the body. This results in a severe drought in the sensitive cells of the brain. This triggers the body's production of endorphins (another hormone) which contributes to addictive tendencies. Regular consumption of alcohol, with its accompanying dehydrating effects on the body, also contributes in some people to chronic fatigue syndrome and even to certain nerve disorders, including multiple sclerosis.
Even a little research will show you that there are very simple and practical changes you can make to aid you in managing stress.
But if you'd like to do more than just be managing stress; if you'd like to also reduce stress, keep reading.