Why You Should Care about Stress
By Derek Schreiber, CLAC Representative
We tend to think of stress in negative terms, but if you listen closely, you won’t hear the experts recommend we get rid of stress completely (that’s impossible and unhealthy). What you will hear is that you need to reduce the amount of stress.
Stress is “pressure or tension exerted on an object or a person.” The largest passenger aircraft in the world is the Airbus A380. It carries over 500 passengers, weighs almost 800,000 pounds empty, and over 1 million pounds fully loaded. The stress that this amount of weight puts on the wings is enormous. So why aren’t A380s falling out of the sky? Because they are engineered to carry that amount of stress.
People are also built to tolerate a certain amount of stress. We are even designed to deal with situations that bring a significant amount of stress. Stress in itself is not bad—holding on to too much stress or constantly being in stressful circumstances with no relief is what leads to problems.
Think of a gazelle, minding its own business, munching grasses on the Serengeti. Suddenly, she catches the scent of a lion. Her heart rate goes up and respiration increases, as does her blood pressure. Her muscles are ready to jump into action. There’s the lion —time to run! Lions have pounced on Joe—poor old guy, he was a nice gazelle but getting a bit slow. No more lions? Time to go back to munching grass.
The human body is designed to deal with stress much in the same way as the gazelle. But unlike gazelles, we trigger the stress response for reasons other than imminent danger. And once triggered, we stay in the stress zone long after the situation is resolved. Our bodies are not designed to deal with that.
Stress is found everywhere in our modern lives—at home, at work, in our relationships, and with strangers. We are constantly triggering the body’s stress response. No matter how much stress you think you can handle, if you spend too much time in the danger zone, you will get sick.
Here are some strategies that may help you deal with stress.
Understand your triggers. Once you know what sets off your stress responses, you can work to remove the trigger or mitigate your reaction to it. Being aware of what your triggers are—and having a plan to deal with them—is the best thing you can do to reduce the stress in your life.
Breathe. Find a quiet space, close your eyes, and take in a deep breath. Hold it for a second, then let it out. Do this 10 times. It won’t take longer than a couple minutes and should give your body an opportunity to return to a normalized state.
Sleep. This should be your top priority for healthy living. Sleep is our body’s way to recover, restore, and remain healthy. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will be less resilient as you face everyday stresses. Do yourself a favour and get eight hours of sleep each night.
Meditate. If you find that you are dealing with a lot of stress, try guided mediation. There are loads of apps out there that will help you fully relax. If you feel guided mediation isn’t for you, try a nice massage or acupuncture.
If you find that you just can't turn the stress down, or that you don't know how to get out of the danger zone, see you family doctor and explore medical options.