Just because stress is considered a “normal” part of everyday life doesn’t mean we have to put up with it. Most people want to reduce stress levels, for obvious reasons. There are so many reasons to reduce stress, for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
However, there are even more benefits of reducing stress than meets the eye. Let’s discuss a few secret benefits of reducing stress - besides the obvious benefit of reducing stress and anxiety!
Health Benefits of Stress Reduction
Stress and anxiety take a physical toll. Long-term stress builds up, putting strain on our bodies. Prolonged depression and anxiety can create a chicken-and-egg effect with stress, and these issues tend to compound the results of stress.
Poor sleep, heart palpitations, digestive problems, headaches, and much more can be caused by excessive stress. The health benefits of reducing stress are one of the more obvious benefits, but certainly not ones to be sniffed at.
Building Good Lifestyle Habits
Reducing stress takes effort. You’ll need to assess your lifestyle and habits, and decide what aspects of your life are causing you stress. Reducing stress often isn’t as simple as quitting a job or avoiding a stressful situation. All too often, we need to work around our problems, rather than just taking them out of the way.
One benefit of reducing stress is that you are forced to build good lifestyle habits. These habits could be as simple as exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of sleep. Or they could be serious lifestyle changes. Whatever the change, these good lifestyle habits will benefit all areas of your life.
Awareness of The Self
Often, stress can build up gradually. We might not even immediately realise what is causing the feelings of stress. Taking steps to reduce stress requires self-awareness. You need to analyze yourself and your feelings before you can make an action plan.
Reducing stress is a marathon, not a sprint. While you can take immediate steps to take the edge of your stress, long-term stress takes time to recover from. This means regular self-analysis of your feelings and situation.
Over time, this builds up to an awareness of the self that can help you identify problems such as anxiety and stress later on.
One of the key elements of overcoming stress is self care. We need to learn - possibly for the first time - to take care of ourselves, to understand our own needs. We learn to set boundaries for ourselves, and we learn how to stand up for ourselves. For example, an overloaded workload can be a major cause of stress. Learning to say “No” - politely but firmly - can be a crucial first step in putting ourselves first.
Self care can be a strange thing at first, especially if you’re not used to putting yourself first. However, the more you take care of yourself, the more ingrained the behavior becomes. Setting a boundary or taking care of ourselves can lead to reduced stress, or simply feeling good about yourself. This encourages you to repeat the behavior, and this is called positive reinforcement.
Self care isn’t a one-off treatment to overcome crippling stress and anxiety. It can and should be a way of life. Positive reinforcement can keep you applying self care, even after you’ve learned to manage your stress.
Learning Stress Management Skills
Every individual is different. Stress is tricky to handle for anyone, and often the hardest part of dealing with stress is finding the coping mechanism that works for you. For example, one person may use meditation and yoga to relax. However, that just doesn’t work for another person. They prefer action, such as running or exercise.
Either way, one benefit of stress reduction is that you learn what works for you. It’s good to try different methods, and maybe even experiment with methods you wouldn’t immediately choose. Whether your stress is completely brought under control or remains simmering under the surface, knowing what works to manage your stress is a handy skill.
We’re often far more harsh with ourselves than we would be with anyone else. Stress can sometimes be caused by the pressure we put on ourselves. We might have higher expectations for ourselves than we would for anyone else, or we could treat ourselves much more poorly than we should.
One important factor in managing stress is to learn how to set realistic expectations - both for yourself and for others. Setting unreachable high standards for yourself is a recipe for failure, which can leave you depressed and even more stressed than before. Setting unrealistic expectations for friends, family, or even coworkers will only lead to disappointment.
Learning to understand what to expect of others and yourself is a real skill, hopefully one you will learn along your journey to stress reduction.
Learn to Prepare
People often feel stressed due to things like difficult work assignments, deadlines, public speaking, and more. The absolute best thing you can do for yourself if you’re dealing with something like this is to prepare.
Suppose you’re set to lead a meeting at work, and you’re nervous and stressed. Taking time to go over your notes, information, and anything else that needs to be discussed can help you relax. While preparation probably won’t remove all of your anxiety, it will go a long way to making your feel better.
Preparing for even small events can help your day to go smoothly and stress free. For example, preparing for the next day the night before can ensure a stress free morning. Learning to prepare can cut out a lot of anxiety from your life.
Why You Should Start Managing Your Stress Now
The benefits of stress management are endless. It’s never too late to start making changes. The skills you’ll pick up as you learn to manage your stress will help you in other areas of your life. Go easy on yourself as you learn. It’s OK to make mistakes and have relapses. With a little perseverance and self-care, you can help yourself destress, starting today.