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Stress:
The good, the bad and the ugly
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Everyone knows our immunity levels are affected by stress. What you may not know is that short-term stress actually stimulates part of our immune system, the part that prepares for injury or infection.   When we experience a brief period of anxiety, such as when preparing to give a presentation or when being confronted by a barking dog, our body rapidly produces all-purpose agents that can attack many different types of infections.   However, another part of our immune system, that which requires time and energy and is activated for a specific infection, is suppressed.  

Unfortunately given the high levels of chronic stress in modern living, long-term stress doesn't appear to have many positive affects on our immune system. The worst kind is chronic and long-term stress with no clear end point and which results in significant changes to a person's life.   This kind of stress depletes our immune system and leaves us open to infections.

So what does this all mean for you? Learning to better manage stress is important not only for your mental health but also for your physical health. But how can you do it? Will it be too hard? Luckily, improving your ability to manage stress requires the development of only a few habits, practiced on a regular basis.  

The first, one which we hear all the time, is engaging in regular physical activity.   Everyone who is reading this article would have heard of the benefits of exercise on many occasions – but have you actually developed a regular routine for engaging in it?   Does it seem to escape your mind as quickly as it entered?   In order to stop this from happening again, before you close this web page, decide on a specific time, type and frequency of physical activity, including how you will be able to fit it into your lifestyle.   Make sure that it is a form of exercise that you will enjoy and, if possible, think of a friend with whom you can exercise (it is often easier to stay motivated when exercising with another person).

The second involves regularly scheduling time to engage in activities that you find relaxing.   This may differ between people, but common ones include painting, reading, walking, knitting and listening to, or playing music.   Try to learn applied relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation, or practice yoga or meditation.

Thirdly, develop time management skills and prioritise your commitments and responsibilities.   Learn to distinguish between those things that you must do and those that you do not, and learn to say “no” to the latter.   Minimising commitments that you have made out of guilt, to satisfy others, or to fulfill unrealistic expectations of yourself can also help reduce your stress levels.

The fourth habit can be subdivided into those things you may do when you notice yourself feeling stressed.   Different people tend to experience and respond to stress in different ways – what happens when you feel stressed?   Do you feel tension in your muscles or become irritable?   When feeling this way, view the stress as a signal to spend time identifying its cause and creating a plan to manage it.  

If you are able to control the cause of your stress, engage in problem solving and determine a solution.  

When it is not possible to control it, try changing your attitude towards the stressor.   Try to view mistakes as learning experiences, look for the positive in the situation, think of how likely it is that something awful will happen (as well as how you could cope if it did!), and also how likely it is that something good could happen.

By devoting time and effort to developing these habits you may improve not only how you feel emotionally, but also your physical health. If you would like assistance to decrease your stress levels, please do not hesitate to contact me on 1800 768 411 .