Stress abounds everywhere in our lives, and it can be very difficult to take command of our lives to a point that we don’t feel constantly pressured, or our minds constantly active. No wonder -we are in an age of information overload (nice article on this here – summary of which is we are exposed to a ridiculously stupendous amount of information). This information overload can lead to stress, and we need less of this, right?
There are very few situations in life in which stress is better for you than relaxation. Stress stems from the fight or flight response that dwells in every living being, when presented with an adversary or a challenge, we naturally tend to try and fight it, or run away. Our mind doesn’t really differentiate between stressors very well sometimes, and the way that we’re constantly under pressure can lead us to be stuck in a fight or flight response.
Why is stress such a big deal? Why should you bother to relax? Stress is everywhere after all, so what good is it to relax when so few people make a practice of it?
Well, here are five very good reasons to sit back, take a breather, and just relax for a change.
1. Your body will thank you
Stress causes no shortage of issues for your body. High blood pressure, headaches, muscle tension, ulcers, weakened immune system, increased oxygen use and a more rapid heart rate are just a few of the many side effects of stress on the body.
Relaxation works just the opposite effects on you, and it helps counteract these effects by giving your heart a chance to rest and your body a chance to calm down, calmer breathing optimizes the use of oxygen in your system and a lower heart rate can help with blood pressure. It also helps you have better sleep when you rest and make it less likely that you will wake up in the middle of the night.
2. You will think more quickly and clearer
Constant stress does some pretty unpleasant things to our mind. Science has long linked many unpleasant diseases to frayed nerves. Paranoia, depression, several syndromes and even just a general feeling of not thinking straight can come from too much stress in your life. It bogs down how you think and can cause you to make bad decisions.
By taking time to relax and put your troubles on hold for a little while, you’re allowing your mind to recover. Sometimes after relaxing and thinking on a problem, the solution is easier to come up with than if you just keep trying to fight through it. If your mind is calm, you can react to stimuli faster than if you’re burdened with unnecessary and often unrelated worries.
3. Your emotions will be more leveled out
We’ve all had a night before a big test or a large presentation at work where we can’t quite control our emotional responses to those around us. When you’re stressed or tired, you operate with less conscious control over your emotional response, which can lead to lashing out at people you care about, or upsetting strangers by acting out.
Relaxing allows you to hold better control over your emotions, and to flow through them more smoothly than if you are stressed out. When you’re calm and relaxed, it allows you to examine your emotions without acting on them, and to make sure the emotional response is fitting for the situation.
4. You will be more efficient at work
Staying relaxed at the work place can be very hard. Deadlines, bosses, annoying co-workers and difficult customers can make it very hard to keep a cool head. This in turn can lead you to become one of those annoying co-workers and perpetuate the cycle, making work an even worse place to be.
It’s still best to try to stay relaxed. You’ll be better at reasoning and problem solving than if your mind is alight with stress and you’ll also enjoy more energy and concentration if you’re feeling good. A friendly worker or employee can even sometimes spread the relaxation and good cheer to others, causing the work place to be more pleasant.
5. You’ll help boost those around you
Emotions and attitudes have energy to them, if you’ve ever been in a class room the day students start filing in for a big test; you know exactly what I’m talking about. The air in the room feels just a little heavy, everyone feels tense, it’s hard to place, but if you pay attention, the very atmosphere feels different than it does in an empty room, or around close friends in a comfortable place.
Stress has a bad tendency to spread. If one person in a group is stressed out and worried, sometimes others in that group will start to think about things that are causing them concern as well.
The best way to combat stress in a group is to try your best to relax and be the sort of friend that helps others relax. It’s amazing how far a smile and a word of reassurance can do for other people who are feeling stressed, and if you can help them with their stress, you may find yours abate a little as well.
There is no avoiding stress in our lives, it’s a constant part of life and no one is truly stress free. What we can do is try our best to mitigate it as much as possible and adopt a mindset that allows us to shrug it off more easily. Someday, I’ll write a list of suggestions of how to combat stress. For now however, for those interested, a lot more detailed information on the effects of stress can be found here. Anything you see there, remember that relaxation is the other side of the coin, and will allow you to combat those conditions.