–By Jacob Manuel
Stress in daily life is something that we all may be aware of to a certain degree, but often we aren’t aware of how it affects our lives, minds and bodies. Unless you’re a researcher or psychologist, you probably don’t put stress in to different categories every day and rate its severity. For most people, stress exists as a simple thought like, “This is (or was) really stressful!” Understanding stress as a dynamic facet of daily life can help you to address it like the living creature it is.
- There are two kinds of stress: Actual and Perceived.
Actual stress involves physical or influential stressors in your life that cause a physical change in a chemical called cortisol. These stressors can look like almost anything; from running late to class or work, to something as scary as crashing your car, you will likely run in to actual stressors every day. These will cause your body to react regardless of your awareness of the stress.
On the other hand, Perceived stress happens entirely in your mind. Take running late to work for example. You see the time and realize you’re late, this builds your cortisol (stress hormone) naturally. But then maybe you start to think about all the things you need to do before you go and what your boss might think or say to you when you get there. This part is the perceived stress and it actually contributes the most to negative impacts in the body.
- Your body and mind are more stressed out than you think.
A recent study by the American Psychological Association found that American teens are just as stressed as their adult counterparts and further, that over half of people are not maintaining healthful practices to reduce the stress. To add on to that, stress takes a toll on our sleep patterns, our eating habits and our organ health (including our brains). So, if we’re more stressed than we think we are and it’s affecting our bodies, what do we do? Keep reading.
- There are many ways you can reduce daily stress that take little to no effort at all.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Eat right and exercise.” When it comes to stress management, these are some of the most important preventative factors, but they do take effort. What you don’t often hear is that other healthful practices like getting enough sleep or finding some time to do something you enjoy will massively reduce stress.
Finally, something you may have read about in a previous post here that can be incredibly helpful in modulating stress levels is having a practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness, simply put, is a practice of noticing internal experiences (like thoughts and emotions) in addition to bodily sensations and doing so with intent, kindness and nonjudgment. Most of us don’t take the time to sit down, take a few breaths and notice how we’re feeling, but have shown that by doing this, we actually can reduce up to 50% of our daily stress.