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25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

Have you ever watched someone who thrives under stress? You know the ones: Where you see a crushing workload, they see an exciting challenge. Where you see a scary path into uncharted territory, they see an adventure. Maybe they know that at least part of the solution to beating the negative impact of stress—which can cause weight gain, heart disease, depression and anxiety—is in how you cope with it. For them, the absence of stress is boredom, so some stress is not just desirable but essential to keep them going. And while stress that is too intense is rarely going to be positive, there are positive ways that you can deal with it. Here are seven simple ways to boost your stress-busting skills. Turn Worry into Problem-Solving Worry is the process of imagining painful, even catastrophic outcomes, with no effective planning for prevention. Focus on potential solutions to short-circuit worrying. Cognitively, it’s the difference between thinking about success versus focusing on failure. Try the following exercise. Clearly Define the Problem: For instance, I feel overburdened at work because I have too many project deadlines all in the same month. Brainstorm to find solutions. Evaluate each idea, putting an X next to those that aren’t possible, a question mark next to the ones that are difficult to do, and a Y next to the steps you could take right now. Set specific dates by which you’ll complete your Y ideas. Revisit your question marks once you’ve successfully completed the Y’s. Are some of the question marks now possible? Finally, go back to the X’s—are they really impossible? Keep it Civil Rude behavior isn’t just a nuisance; it’s a significant source of stress and anxiety. A 2008 U.S. study of more than 1,500 men and women found that workplace incivility negatively affected the mental and physical health of victims of sarcasm, disparagement or the silent treatment. The surprise? Those who worked with the victims were also less healthy. It could be the result of the ‘Co-Victimization Experience’ of witnessing the incivility, or the fear that they could be the next victim. Foster a respectful workplace atmosphere to reduce everyone’s stress. Be Your Own Devil's Advocate If you are one of those people who spend time worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet try this strategy to dial down your anxiety. After a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast—two stress-busters your mom was correct about—write down your worry. Then ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen to me if what I want to happen doesn’t?” Then ask yourself: “What good things might occur if what I want to happen doesn’t, or what I don’t want to happen does?” Think about the positive thoughts or emotions you can tap into now that you’ve imagined alternative outcomes. Negatives aren’t always to be dreaded. Finding personal meaning and value in the experience can make a stressful situation more tolerable. Build in Stimulation New research on the brain from Princeton University shows that chronic stress can actually cause brain damage because brain cells stop regenerating. The good news? A stimulating environment can help heal that damage by boosting cell regeneration. Choose an activity you enjoy, one that engages your brain in such a way that time passes almost without you being aware of it. It could be running, gardening or doing a crossword: anything that takes your mind’s focus away from your stress. Opt for an activity that has physical as well as mental benefits. Inspire Yourself While some may find reading the stories of others helpful in coping with stress, it is suggested that looking for inspiration even closer to home works more efficiently. It’s useful to step back and reflect on your own past successes in coping with difficulty. That process helps you to say, “I’ve dealt with lots of things well enough in the past. How do I deal with this?”. Share the Burden Short-term behavioral group therapy effectively helped men who were stressed by overwork to lower their blood pressure and reduce overall stress. Setting structure within your daily life and gaining support from family and friends to take on new activities can both help as you try to create new, more effective ways to deal with your stress.