Psychology researcher Dr. Nicolas Rohleder Ph.D, along with three of his research postdoctoral students, report that being unable to deal with psychological stress can cause major harm to our bodies. They warn people to chill out to improve their health. In this world where everyone is moving faster and faster and faster to keep up, how do we know if the stress we feel is part of life or really harmful to us? The key seems to be in our ability to cut ourselves some slack or forgive ourselves for being less than perfect. People who scored higher on self-compassion were better at not blaming or shaming themselves for mistakes. They were quicker to move on after an argument rather than dwelling on it. In the journal of brain, behavior and immunity, researchers described that stressors as simple as being stuck in traffic or not being on time for appointments can wreck havoc on one’s immune system causing inflammation. When you are able to let go and lower your expectations about your need to be somewhere at a specific time all the time you lowered your stress level and improved health.
Psychological stress can trigger biological responses similar to the effects of illness, injury and inflammation. Regulated inflammation can help prevent infection promoting healing, whereas when stress affecting inflammation you can suffer from cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
For years researchers have told us the effects of major stress on our bodies. We have all witnessed friends and family who have aged overnight when loved ones become ill, suffer financial problems, or make a career change. However, we have not heard about the day-to-day effects our own thoughts have had on the deterioration of our body. This study supports the fact that what we tell ourselves about the traffic, raising kids, as well as everyday conflict we engage in may lead to heart disease as well as aging. Having to scale back completely and become emotionless isn’t necessary, but making small changes with your thoughts can make huge impacts on your overall health. Below are five changes to deal with everyday stress.
1. Work on forgiveness for not being perfect. Self-talk is so important, and beating yourself up for making mistakes causes undo anxiety, depression and a feeling of worthlessness.
2. Meditate or pray. You can do this by forcing yourself to smile more, sing, or spend some quiet time in the morning. Taking quiet time, even if it’s only five minutes, can bring your blood pressure down and relieve anxiety. A mantra when you become agitated can help slow down your heartbeat.
3. Breathe. Make it a practice to breathe slower when you are upset.
4. When you feel angry focus on talking quieter. This one tactic not only helps you calm down, but it helps the person who is agitated and losing control.
5. Chill out. That text, that tweet that email does NOT have to be returned immediately. It is not worth extra heartbeats, elevated blood pressure, or an accident. When you get home, shut down your electronics until you have had time with your family and those you love most.
It won’t matter how much you give, how well you parent, or how much you love your partner if you become ill due to your inability to chill out once in a while. –Mary Jo Rapini