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9. When Does Stress Happen?

Stress is to be expected when you experience a major life change, such as when you move, lose someone you love, get married, change jobs, or experience a big change in financial status, diet, exercise habits, or health. But you can also expect stress when you get a minor cold, have an argument with a friend, go on a diet, join a gym, stay out too late, drink too much, or even stay home with your kids all day when school is cancelled due to that irritating blizzard. Remember, stress often results from any kind of change in your normal routine. It also results from living a life that doesn’t make you happy.

10. Identify Environmental Stressors

Environmental stressors are things in your immediate surroundings that put stress on your physical body. These include air pollution, polluted drinking water, excess noise, artificial lighting, or bad ventilation. You might also be in the presence of allergens due to the field of ragweed growing outside your bedroom window, or the dander of the cat that likes to sleep on your pillow. If you’re experiencing trouble breathing or sleeping, or you’ve noticed any skin irritations or other physical issues (headaches, nausea, etc.), you might be in the presence of environmental stressors.

11. Identify Physiological Stressors

Physiological stressors are those within your own body that cause stress. For example, hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy or menopause put direct physiological stress on your system, as does premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Hormonal changes may also cause indirect stress because of the emotional changes they cause. Also, bad health habits such as smoking, drinking too much, eating junk food, or being sedentary put physiological stress on your body. So does illness, whether it’s the common cold or something more serious like heart disease or cancer. Injury also puts stress on your body; a broken leg, a sprained wrist, and a slipped disk are all stressful conditions.

12. Distinguish Between Direct and Indirect Stress

Getting caught in heavy traffic may stress your body directly because of air pollution, but it may also stress your body indirectly because you get so worked up sitting in your car in the middle of a traffic jam that your blood pressure rises, your muscles tense, and your heart beats faster. If you were to interpret the traffic jam differently—say, as an opportunity to relax and listen to your favorite CD before work—your body might not experience any stress at all.

13. Pain Causes Indirect Stress

Pain is another, trickier example of indirect stress. If you have a terrible headache, your body may not experience direct physiological stress, but your emotional reaction to the pain might cause your body significant stress. Pain is an important way to let us know something is wrong; however, sometimes we already know what’s wrong. We get migraines, have arthritis, or experience menstrual cramps. This kind of “familiar” pain isn’t useful in terms of alerting us to something that needs immediate medical attention. But because we know we are in some form of pain, we still tend to get tense. Our emotional reaction doesn’t cause or intensify the pain, but it does cause the physiological stress associated with the pain.

14. Be On Time

Are you always late? Are you perpetually disorganized? This can cause a lot of stress! Additionally, being late is inconsiderate to those who are waiting for you. It makes you look bad, and it sets a bad example for the people who look up to you (people such as your children). The best way to handle disorganization is to tackle problems one at a time. Let your tardiness be your first goal. Planning is key. Start getting ready for anything you have to do about an hour ahead of time and make sure you have everything you need well before you need it.

15. Tell the Truth

Believe it or not, the simple act of lying can cause a great deal of stress in your life. Once you’ve told a lie, you have to keep it up, and that can affect lots of other parts of your routine. Lying is a habit, not necessarily a character flaw. Some people find themselves bending the truth habitually, even if they don’t have a good reason to do so. Truth telling is a habit, too, and the best way to start is to always pause and think before you say something. Ask yourself, “What am I about to say?” And if your answer is something other than what you know to be the truth, ask yourself, “Is there really a good reason for bending the truth? What would happen if I simply said what is so?”

16. Decide When Enough Is Enough

You may not feel like the stress in your life is quite so bad just yet. But what will happen if you don’t begin to manage your stress right now? How long will you allow stress to compromise your quality of life, especially knowing you don’t have to let it? That’s where stress management comes in. As pervasive as stress may be in all its forms, stress management techniques that really work are equally pervasive. You can manage, even eliminate, the negative stress in your life. All you have to do is find the stress management techniques that work best for you. Learn them and turn your life around.

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