The top five most stressful life events, reports UH Hospitals, include the death of a loved one, divorce, moving, experiencing major illness or injury, and the loss of a job. With the uncertainty posed by current global circumstances, many people are unfortunately facing one or more of these events while working or planning a big event it is too late to cancel. If you are experiencing a particularly challenging time, know above all that you may need professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered a ‘gold standard’ treatment for stress. However, you can supplement this aid with many natural activities that are proven to stop stress in its tracks.
Responses To Stress
Before tackling stress proactively, it’s helpful to understand the different responses to stressful life events. According to ‘general adaptation syndrome’ theory, the body initially defends itself against a stressor through an ‘alarm reaction’ (also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, activated to adapt to short-term emergency situations). When stress lasts longer, however, the organism moves to the resistance stage; the person can seem to be adapting to stress, but immunity can be compromised, and as the body struggles to adapt, diseases such as ulcers and cardiovascular diseases can develop. Finally, in the exhaustion stage, there is a breakdown, and an event such as illness, depression or burnout can occur.
Stress Is Less Risky Than Poor Lifestyle Choices
As stated by scientists from Freie Universität Berlin, however, most people who experience stress do not become ill. Stressful life events are usually temporary, and are less risky than longer-lasting risk factors that are lifestyle related. For instance, wedding planning can cause anxiety and stress. However, once the event is over, the cause of stress disappears. Often, stress in a case such as this can be reduced by having realistic expectations, following a timeline, and practicing self-care. Help from professional organizers can also help. Sometimes, however, stress can be a longer-lasting phenomenon. This may be the case when an individual has lost their job and is looking to make a career change, or when someone is going through a divorce. The first step towards responding to stress involves reducing risk factors such as smoking, poor diets, and alcohol consumption. During times of need, it is important to embrace healthy coping mechanisms and to seek social and, if necessary, professional support.
Natural Approaches To Stress Reduction
There are tried-and-tested approaches which work well alongside standard therapies such as CBT. Often, they are sufficient to nip stress in the bud. Top proven methods to bring down stress hormone (cortisol) levels include yoga, mindfulness meditation, and Tai Chi. Yoga, for instance, has been proven to be a powerful aid to women when they are receiving radiotherapy for breast cancer. These mindfulness-based activities have been proven in study after study to help with various stressful situations – including moves of residence, commencement of study at college, PTSD recovery, and the like. Spending time in nature is also an effective way to deal with stress. One study showed that simply being in a green area for a few minutes has a major calming effect on body and mind. Another found that the Japanese hobby of ‘forest bathing’ (simply visiting a forest or green area and opening your senses to the sights and sounds) is sufficient to induce relaxation and lift the mood.
Some life events are known to be more stressful than others. These include loss of a job, the death of a loved one, and divorce or separation. Sustained stress is linked to illness, but usually, stress is fleeting and does not cause disease. Anxiety and worry can be curbed through CBT and holistic activities that emphasize the importance of keeping body and mind ‘in the here and now’.