The human life currently appears to progress through seven ages of stress. Babies can be stressed from birth by overstressed parents. We stress toddlers with too much TV and too little play; children, with too much pressure and too many exams; teenagers, with the constant anxiety of social media; adults with the need to continuously juggle all of the responsibilities of their lives; and the older population, with the stresses of ageing.
74% of people in the UK felt that, at some point last year, they were so stressed that they were unable to cope, while one third said that they had experienced suicidal feelings.
The New Economics Foundation analysed hospital admission data from 2016/2017 and found that there were 17,500 incidents in which stress or anxiety was the primary cause for hospital admission. This led to 165,800 days where beds were occupied due to stress or anxiety, at the cost of £71.1 million to the taxpayer.
Some stress can be beneficial at times, producing a boost that provides the drive and energy to help people get through situations like exams or work deadlines. However, an extreme amount of stress can have negative health consequences and affect the immune, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and central nervous systems.
Stress is also known to be a major contributor, either directly or indirectly, to coronary heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidental injury, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide – six of the leading causes of death worldwide.
Chronic stress can occur in response to everyday stressors that are ignored or poorly managed. It can also be brought on by exposure to traumatic events. The consequences of chronic stress are severe, notably as it also contributes to anxiety and depression.
If lifestyle choices are causing you stress, you may want to consider changing the way you approach your personal or professional life. Some of the ways in which you can help decrease this kind of stress include:
- putting yourself under less pressure to perform at work or school by lowering your standards to a level, you still find acceptable
- not taking on as many responsibilities at work or activities at home
- sharing responsibilities or delegating tasks to others around you
- surrounding yourself with supportive and positive friends and family members
- removing yourself from stressful environments or situations
Activities such as yoga, meditation, or mindfulness practices can also help you deal with stress. Improving lifestyle and behavioural choices are essential steps towards increasing your overall health and avoiding chronic stress. One small step to improve your emotional health, such as going on a daily walk, can have a very beneficial effect. Being active is a small but powerful change that you can make in your life to help you manage stress.
It is essential to find something that works for you. However, the most important thing is to try and find inner balance; the power inside you that will help you to handle the different moments of your life more calmly, more cheerfully and more healthily.
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