April is Stress Awareness Month, so this is a good time to assess your level of stress and some of its associated health effects. Have you ever wondered why some people can deal better with stressful situations than others?

Stress Hazards

Stress is encountered in almost every aspect of life, but the degree in which people experience stress lies in their personality. Some of the unhealthy effects of stress include:

  • Weight gain — Researchers have long known that chronic stress adversely affects health, particularly overweight and obesity.
  • Frequent headaches
  • High blood pressure  
  • Heart disease
  • Forgetfulness
  • Frequent colds
  • Neck and back pain

Why Do Some People Get More Stressed Out Than Others?

Being prone to stress comes down to individual differences in personality and/or attitudes. Therefore, you could be the source of your own stress and its unhealthful effects. Are you…

  1. IMPATIENT — If you’re impatient, you expect others to work, walk, drive (you name it) faster. You are critical of how others perform. If other people don’t meet your standards, you boil over inside and are never at peace. You suffer from “slowness rage” and complain you’re in the slowest line, stuck behind the slowest driver, or have the slowest waiter. You not only create stress within yourself, but within the person who’s the target of your impatience.
  1. A PERFECTIONIST — If you’re a perfectionist, you strive to be perfect. Since it’s not possible to be perfect, you often feel anxious, disappointed in yourself, and thus, feel like a failure. In situations where you should be celebrating your accomplishments, you actually feel defeated.
  1. ALWAYS ‘ON THE GO’  If you’re unable to relax, you’re always working and jumping from one project or chore to another. You never stop to relax and calm your body and mind. This builds up to what’s called a “deadly stress momentum”. It’s not the act of keeping busy that causes your stress, it’s when you continually push yourself that builds stress. People who are under chronic stress tend to overeat and develop stress-related conditions, such as high blood pressure or worse yet, a heart attack or stroke.
  1. HUMORLESS AND UNENTHUSIASTIC— If you have a “sour attitude” (often a sign of depression), you bring about your own stress. You are fuming inside and full of self-contempt. Learning to laugh and feel excitement can ignite some enthusiasm about life. “Faking a smile” can actually boost your mood and lower stress. Science has shown that the act of smiling can trigger certain facial muscles and trick your brain into thinking you’re happy and release certain “happiness hormones”, such as serotonin and dopamine.
  1. POWERLESS — If you’re in a role, whether at home or at work, where your feelings or opinions are not respected or heard, you feel unimportant and thus, feel an inner contempt. 
  1. RIGID — If you’re rigid, you always find something to be upset about. It’s difficult for you to accept another opinion or a different way of doing something, and therefore, you argue a lot.
  1. OBSESSED WITH COMPETITION — If you’re excessively competitive, you’re always competing, which creates unnecessary pressure in your life. Not only do you want to win in sports, but you want to win in other areas of your life, such as in making more money, buying the bigger house, nicer car or clothes, etc. Your happiness is contingent on whether you’re “winning” and thus, you’re in a constant state of stress.
  1. ANGRY AND EXPLOSIVE — When you’re mad, you tend to be loud and/or explosive over people and things, or you may fume, holding the angry feelings in. Not only do you create stress within yourself, but within those around you.
  1. CHRONICALLY ILL – If you have a chronic illness or condition, this can lead to relentless stress. Managing your plan of care, such as selecting your practitioners and type of therapies (conventional or alternative), can help. You will be less prone to stress when you have better control over your treatment.

Karen’s Fit Tip: You may not be able to control stressful situations, but you can control the way you react to them. By journaling your feelings, you become more aware of the things that cause you stress. When you’re aware of your stress and what triggers it, you can develop a strategy to manage it.

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