Help for Chronic Stress

Help for Chronic Stress

My daughter just learned to drive.  The learning process was a stressful endeavor for both of us.  On one of our first outings, she encountered a yellow light.  She hit the brake, then she accelerated, then she hit the brake again.  As we came to a stop in the middle of the intersection, I said (in a slightly elevated voice), “Go!  Now you have to go!”  We were at a point where we couldn’t turn back, (or back up in this case).

We proceeded through the intersection.  Lucky for all, no accidents occurred, and after a short discussion about what to do in the future, she was clear about the importance of making a decision, sticking to it, and not pushing the yellow.

As drivers, we all know that from time to time it’s necessary to push through the tail end of a yellow light.  But if we get in the habit of doing it all of the time, we’re bound to get a ticket, or worse, cause an accident.

The same is true with Stress.  Stress gives us all kinds of yellow lights to let us know that we’re moving into Stress Overload.  Most of us ignore them.  Chronic stress (the kind that leads to serious negative health consequences) is preventable; however, we have to be willing to stop running yellow lights when it comes to stress.  If the warning signs are there, it’s time to slow down, de-stress, and save your body the negative effects of unchecked stress.

As a stress management educator, I’ve heard horror stories of people who never stopped to deal with their chronic stress.   Stress takes its toll on our mood, ages us, and leads to all kinds of health problems including heart disease.

If you’re experiencing any of the following, ask yourself if these conditions could be yellow lights signaling that you need to take steps to reduce your stress.

Unusually quick temper
Prolonged irritability
Irrational fear and anxiety
Inability to focus
Bad dreams
Constant fatigue
Chronic aches and pains, including headaches

If you continually run these yellow lights without taking time to refresh and renew, it may be too late to turn back once health issues due to stress begin to manifest.

A positive about stress reduction activities is that a little goes a long way.  You could be feeling extremely stressed, and with focused attention, in as little as five minutes you can deactivate your stress response and reduce the tension in your body.

Here’s a quick 5 minute method for reducing stress.  Use this when you’re feeling especially stressed or make time to do this everyday if you think you have chronic stress.

Find a quiet place.  This is easier than it sounds.  The bathroom, your cooled off car, your office with the door shut.  Sit in a comfortable position.  Breathe in to the count of five.  Hold your breath for the count of three.  Exhale and silently think, “I’m breathing out all of the tension and stress.”  As you do this, let the muscles in your body (and especially in your face and mouth) relax.  Repeat this a series of time until you feel relaxed, up to five minutes.

This may not seem like it can have a positive impact with so little time involved, but it can make all of the difference when preventing chronic stress.

Try it, and if it works for you, I’d love to hear from you.

Know the warning signs, and you can prevent Chronic Stress and live a life filled with more joy and energy!


About the Author

Monica Scalf is the founder of The Playground Group, LLC, a company that helps organizations increase bottom line results by investing in the development of their people. Since 2009, she has been teaching workshops on teamwork, productivity, and personal effectiveness in places such as P&G, Lexis Nexis, and Xavier University. Her mission is to help create positive and productive workplaces where employees thrive without sacrificing personal happiness.