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14 Effective Ways to

Protect Yourself Against

Chronic Stress

wreck your body.

tress is a good thing.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but consider the

A gazelle is feeding. It sees a hungry lion. Automatically its

pupils dilate. The gazelle is breathing faster and its heart is
pumping in overdrive. Thanks to a sudden burst of energy,
the gazelle is able to run away from the lion and into safety.
This phenomenon is called the stress response (aka the
flight-or-fight response). All animals, including humans, respond this way when faced with imminent danger (stressors). And without it we would never have made it this far as
a species.[i]

The bad news is that stress is an inescapable feature of our

modern life. Thankfully, there are ways that you can protect yourself against it. And today Im going to give you 14
techniques that will help you relax and achieve a level of
peace you probably thought impossible.
But first, lets see how stress damages the body.

7 Ways Chronic Stress Can Wreck Your Life

Stress affects both the body and the mind. Lets look at
some of the ways stress can affect your daily life.


Stress Can Ruin Your Sleep

So if our bodys stress response is such as life-saver, why is

it that we always hear stress can lead to chronic disease,
weight gain, and worse?
Glad you asked.
You see, our bodies cannot distinguish between life-threatening stressors (a hungry lion, for example) and symbolic
stressors which are non-life threatening and include being
late for work, speaking in public, worrying about making
mortgage payments, and more. Your body reacts to these
stressors the same way it responds to being chased by a
Feeling like you are being chased by a hungry lion day after day, week after week, month after month throughout
the year is not a healthy thing. Yet thats the situation the
vast majority of us find ourselves in. We suffer from chronic stress. And this type of continued, excessive stress can

When stressed, you either get too little or too much sleep.
Aside from messing up the quantity of sleep, stress can also

affect the quality of sleep. If youre too stressed, your risk

for insomnia is increased by 19 percent. And it can turn
into a vicious cycle. You cant sleep because youre stressed
and youll get even more stressed because youre not getting enough sleep.[ii]


more initially. THEN, these initial effects wear off. Suddenly, youre no longer able to concentrate.[iv]


Make You Lose or Gain Weight

Stress can cause unintentional weight loss[v] or weight

gain[vi]. It depends on how an individual reacts to stress.
Some may lose their appetite. Others will comfort themselves by eating more.

Wreck Your Emotions


Weaken Your Immune System

Stress weakens the immune system.[vii] According to the

American Psychological Association: For stress of any
significant duration from a few days to a few months or
years, as happens in real life all aspects of immunity went
downhill. Thus long-term or chronic stress, through too
much wear and tear, can ravage the immune system.


Stress can suck the humor out of you. Whats hysterical to

others will seem plain and boring. You may become irritable, jumpy, easily frustrated, overwhelmed, and jaded.[iii]


According to author Kelly McGonigal, PhD, The biology of

stress and the biology of willpower are simply incompatible. So any time were under chronic stress its harder to
find our willpower. The fight-or-flight response floods the
body with energy to act instinctively and steals it from the
areas of the brain needed for wise decision-making. Stress
also encourages you to focus on immediate, short-term
goals and outcomes, but self-control requires keeping the
big picture in mind.[viii]

Contribute to Your Risk of Life-Threatening and
Debilitating Diseases

Spoil Your Concentration

Stress heightens your senses and makes you concentrate

Diminish Your Willpower

Prolonged stress can make any disease you can imagine

even worse. Here are the 10 most significant of them:

Heart diseases
Depression and anxiety
Gastrointestinal problems
Alzheimers disease
Accelerated ageing
Premature death[ix]

Now, dont get too stressed about getting stressed. The key
to victory is to know the enemy. Lets find out more about

What Exactly is Stress?

Heres a head scratcher, stress is a highly subjective term
that defies definition.
In 1936, Hans Selye first used the term stress. He observed
through several animal tests that lab animals respond similarly to unpleasant stimulus such as loud noises or blaring
light. Selye was the first to demonstrate that persistent
stress can lead to disease.[x]


Enlisted Military Personnel
Military General
Airline Pilot
Police Officer
Event Coordinator
Newspaper Reporter

Stress Rating

According to
Selye struggled unsuccessfully all his life to find a satisfactory definition of stress. In attempting to extrapolate
his animal studies to humans so that people would understand what he meant, he redefined stress as The rate of
wear and tear on the body. This is actually a pretty good
description of biological aging so it is not surprising that
increased stress can accelerate many aspects of the aging
process. In his later years, when asked to define stress, he
told reporters, Everyone knows what stress is, but nobody
really knows.

Its important to distinguish between stressors (things that

cause us stress) and our stress response (how we react to
these stressors).

A more useful definition of stress would then be the whole

interaction between stressors and stress response.

The 10 Most Stressful Jobs of 2015

Lets now take a look at the causes of stress and how you can
prepare yourself to minimize the impact of these stressors.

CareerCast rated the top 10 most stressful jobs of 2015.

7 Causes of Stress
Mike Bundrant listed 7 things that make us stressed[xi].
Understanding these stressors can help us deal with them





1. That Critical Voice Inside Your Head Theres a voice
inside your head that constantly reminds you that what
youre doing may be wrong. Sigmund Freud called this
the super-ego. We cant silence this voice but we can
learn to live with it.
2. Toxic Relationships A study involving 10,000 subjects
with each one followed for an average of 12.2 years dis-

covered that those who are in negative relationships

were more likely to develop heart disease compared to
those who are in non-negative relationships.[xii]
Self-Sabotage This is different from #1. In self-sabotage, you know whats good for you but you do the exact opposite. You rationalize and make-up excuses that
you know all the while arent true. And you do this again
and again.[xiii]
Inner Conflict Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance. Its why you cant decide. You want one thing and
you want the opposite too. So you pass off making the
decision and you feel helpless. Indecisiveness can consume a good part of your emotional energy which could
have been spent more productively.[xiv]
Inner Passivity Inside every one of us is a battle between inner aggression (the super-ego) and inner passivity (self-doubt and subordinate ego). It blocks creativity, purpose, confidence, and other functions of our
Autopilot Thinking Youve probably experienced
driving home and not have any memory of how you got
there. It happens to most of us. Scientists attribute this
to what they call Default Mode Network (DMN)[xvi].
The brain, it turns out, is on standby mode when were
resting. Theres continuous background chatter. This
standby mode consumes 20 times more energy compared to when were actually engaged in activities.
Physical Imbalance When youre stressed, you tend
to neglect eating right and engaging in healthy activities. And when you dont eat healthy, you deprive the
brain of the nutrients it needs to function properly and
you easily get stressed resulting in a vicious cycle.

The good news is that there are things you can do to fight
back stress and to protect yourself against it. Lets dive

in and find out about these powerful tools for managing


14 Natural Ways to Manage Stress

Its called stress management because its simply impossible to totally eliminate stress from our lives. And thats not
too bad. In fact a little stress can be good for you. Too much
stress is what we want to avoid. [xvii]
Lets talk about how you can manage stress so you dont
have to deal with too much of it.


The opposite, being aggressive, isnt very healthy either. It

may appear that being aggressive is the ticket to getting
what you want but it comes at a steep price. Aggressiveness undermines trust and respect and it often backfires.

The Passive-Aggressive
Another communication style you want to avoid is being
passive-aggressive. When you complain behind others
backs instead of confronting the issue directly, youre being passive-aggressive. Just like aggression, passive-aggressive behavior often leads to lost trust and respect.

Be Assertive

Being assertive is a style of communication. Its somewhere in the middle of being passive and being aggressive.
It means being able to effectively express yourself while respecting others point of view.[xviii]
In communication, delivery is as important as the message.
If you come off as too aggressive or too passive, you risk
sending the wrong message.

The Passive Mode of Communication

When youre passive, your tendency is to avoid conflict. So
you just say yes all the time. This sends the impression that
your own feelings and ideas arent important. In essence,
youre giving other people permission to ignore your wants
and needs. Always saying yes can lead to internal conflict
and more stress.

The Aggressive Mode of Communication

The best way to communicate if you want to manage stress

better is to become assertive. Mayo Clinic has the following
tips to help you develop an assertive communication style:

Figure out your style. You can only make changes once
youve figured out what your current style is.
Start using I statements. Instead of saying youre
wrong say I disagree.
Learn to say no. You dont always have to explain why
you decline. But if you decide to explain your reason,
keep it brief. Simply say, No, I cant do that now.
Practice what you want to say. This is particularly helpful if you find it hard to articulate your thoughts. Practice with someone role-playing as the person you want
to talk to.
Project an assertive body language. Look confident
even if you arent. Assertive body language includes:
1. Making regular eye contact.
2. Maintaining a neutral or positive facial expression.
3. Avoiding dramatic gestures.


Learn to Deal with Conflict

Conflicts naturally arise and developing your conflict resolution skills is a must to manage stress better.
Conflict itself often isnt the problem. Its how we handle it.
To handle conflicts more skillfully, stress management expert Elizabeth Scott, MS recommends the following:[xix]
Focus dont bring up past conflicts however related
they may seem. Digging into the past can only muddle
the current issue. Youre looking for a solution, not trying to prove whos wrong or whos right.
Truly listen effective listening means not interrupting
or getting defensive. Hear the other person out and acknowledge what they said by repeating it back to them
in your own words. When you truly listen, you may be
surprised that they, in turn, are more willing to listen to
your side of the story.
Put yourself in the other persons shoes No it wont
be easy. And it seems counter-intuitive. But the more
you understand the other party, the easier it will be for
you to explain your side. When you empathize, it would
be easier for them to be open to what you have to say.
Dont get defensive with criticism criticism is very
difficult to hear. Our natural instinct is to dismiss them
as exaggerated and unfounded. Try to respond with empathy to their criticism. Theres possibly a grain of truth
to what theyre saying and that can be valuable information for you.
Own up personal responsibility is not a weakness but
a great strength. Admit your faults. Its often the case
that both parties involved have a share in the conflict.
By taking personal responsibility, you are setting a good
example. Its a step closer to resolving the conflict.
Compromise again, youre not trying to win. Youre
looking for a solution that can make everybody happy.

Take a break emotions can often get in the way. If this

happens, take a break and cool off for a while before resuming talks.
See it through You take a break but then you come
back and continue when youre ready. Dont give up.
Use I statements assertiveness plays an important
role in conflict resolution. I statements sound less accusatory and dont prod the other person to be defensive. I feel stressed when this happens is easier to take
than You stress me out.


how we spend our time for a few weeks. We have to figure

out if we have a time management problem or if theres just
too much load than we can realistically bear.[xxi]

Learn to Communicate Effectively

Trying to put your thoughts into words can be doubly difficult when youre under stress. And when you grasp for
words, your stress is multiplied.
Jonathan Dugger from Rich Dad Education[xx] has the following tips about dealing with stress while communicating:


Acknowledge that you are stressed.

Calm down before proceeding.
Use your senses. Think about a soothing experience.
Use humor to diffuse the situation.
Learn to compromise.
Agree to disagree.

Learn to Manage Your Time

We all have a finite amount of time. But theres so much

we want to do. Time is never enough. Like anything worthwhile in life, learning to effectively manage time is not easy.
The rewards, however, are truly worth it.
Psychologist Jeffrey Janata, PhD, recommends monitoring

Donna M. White, LMHC, CACP has these 6 tips to manage

your time better.[xxii]
Use a checklist. Theyre super simple and effective.
Set deadlines. (And meet them!)
Quit multi-tasking. Youll be more productive when
you focus on one task at a time.
Delegate. You may be very good at what you do but you
cant do everything yourself.
Make the best of downtime. You dont have to stress
about maximizing every minute of your life. But you can

use time waiting, for a doctors appointment, for example, to create, say, grocery lists.
Reward yourself. Rewarding your productive behavior
reinforces it.

to a loved one. All these help develop lasting relationships

that can help you during bouts of stress.[xxiii]
Aside from helping you against stress, a social support network has been shown to help people live longer.



Build Your Social Support Network

Focus on the Positive

Yeah, I know. Glass half-empty, glass half-full. Youve heard

it all before. But theres a reason youre always hearing this.
Its because it works. Were not really sure yet why it works
but it does.
While we dont know the why, positive thinkings effects
have been observed by researchers and they include:

A longer life
Lower rates of depression and distress
Better resistance to colds
General well-being (physically and psychologically)
Reduced heart disease risk
Resilience to stress
Thinking positively doesnt mean ignoring the bad
things that inevitably happen in life. Mayo Clinic[xxiv]
has a short and useful guide on using positive thinking
to defend against stress.

Close friends and family who you know will always be there
when you need them can go a long way to helping you manage stress. Some social support networks have regular
meetings and a formal leader. But its not necessary.
The idea is to develop relationships that you nourish during
times when youre not stressed. A chat with your neighbor,
a coffee break shared with a friend at work, a phone call

Be Thankful

Simply being grateful you know that thing we do once a

year during Thanksgiving can make you healthier if you
practice it throughout the year. Psychology professor Robert Emmons points out that thankful people are more likely
to take care of their health. Being thankful is a powerful antidote against stress and its been shown to boost the immune system.[xxv] m

To develop being thankful, Emmons suggests:

Keeping a gratitude journal. List all the things you are
thankful for at least once a week.
List the benefits in your life that you often take for
Be kind when you talk to yourself.
Reframe a situation. Look at it at a different angle and
highlight the positive.


Stop and Smell the Roses

Double the time you allot on a task. For example, if

you estimate you can finish a report in 3 hours, allot 6
hours to the task. You can avoid burn-out and actually
enjoy accomplishing the task by taking it slow.
Consciously perform tasks in slow motion. Slowing
down by 25% can have tremendous helpful benefits.
Stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system.
This counteracts the flight-or-fight response that
cause us stress. You can do this by:
1. Breathing through your stomach.
2. Visualizing a relaxing scene.
3. Lightly running two fingers over your lips. (Bernhard
swears this works.)
No multi-tasking. Multi-tasking can be a hard habit to
beat. If youre a hardcore multi-tasker, it may take some
time to focus on just one task at time. But it can be done.


Use Humor

It also has long-term health benefits including an improved

immune system, pain relief, increased personal satisfaction, and improved mood.

Life would be infinitely less stressful if we just take the time

to slow down. Toni Bernhard JD has 4 tips for slowing down
to reduce stress.[xxvi]


Its no joke. Laughter is an excellent defense against stress.

When you laugh, you take in more oxygen which stimulates
the heart, lungs, and muscles. It also helps the brain release
more endorphins the feel good hormone. Laughter can
leave you feeling relaxed.

10 Develop Your Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is how you evaluate yourself. Stanley J. Gross,

Ed.D. puts it this way:
Low self-esteem is a negative evaluation of oneself. This
type of evaluation usually occurs when some circumstance
we encounter in our life touches on our sensitivities. We
personalize the incident and experience physical, emotional, and cognitive arousal. This is so alarming and confusing
that we respond by acting in a self-defeating or self-destructive manner. When that happens, our actions tend
to be automatic and impulse-driven,we feel upset or emotionally blocked, our thinking narrows,our self-care deteriorates, we lose our sense of self,and we focus on being in
control and become self-absorbed.[xxviii]
And thats stressful.
The good news is that self-esteem can be raised. Stanley
Gross has a few tips on raising our self-esteem.

#11 Learn to Cope with Your Fear and Anxiety

Face your fear head-on. Avoiding fear makes fear more

Develop a sense of personal control. Focus on the
things that you have power over.
Be positive.
Rediscover a sense of purpose. Youre here for a reason.
Talk to family and friends. (Social support group, remember?)
Take a hike. The combination of exercise and being
close to nature works wonders.

Avoiding fear makes fear more powerful.

#12 Mind Your Spiritual Health

Stress and anxiety are intertwined. They overlap. The main

difference between stress and anxiety is their cause. With
stress, you are fully aware of whats making you stressed.
With anxiety, we dont always know whats causing it.
Anxiety and stress are distinct feelings. Stress is about being frustrated and being nervous. Its about tension (emotional or physical). Anxiety, on the other hand, is the feeling
associated with fear, unease, and worrying.[xxix]
The University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality &
Healing has the following tips to cope with fear and anxiety:[xxx]


You dont have to be religious to experience a sense of

spirituality. A lot of people find spirituality in believing
in a higher power, in observing religious practices, and in
prayer and meditation. For others, spirituality is being one
with nature, enjoying music and art, or by being part of a
secular community.[xxxi]
Different strokes for different folks.
But the benefits are the same. The following are the benefits of maintaining your spiritual health according to Mayo
A sense of purpose. Youll have a clearer sense of whats

important and thus spend less time on unimportant

Being connected to the world. When you have a purpose in this world, youll feel less lonely even when
youre alone.
Release of control. You realize that there are a lot of
things that are out of your control.
An extended support network. Being part of a group
increases your social circle. You are no longer limited to
just family and friends.
Better overall health. Those who are spiritual-minded
tend to cope with stress better, heal from illnesses faster, and come out of addictions faster.

observe the sensations of each body part.

Mindfulness for Stress Relief mindfulness is about
focusing on the present moment experience and has
been proven to be very effective against stress.
Visualization Meditation its basically employing all
your senses to imagine a scene in which you can let goof
all the tension and anxiety.
Yoga or Tai Chi
Massage sessions help too. And also, having a pet.

#14 Exercise

#13 Learn to Relax

Sitting in front of the TV isnt exactly an effective relaxation
technique. Sorry.
The following are techniques that stimulate the relaxation
response in our body to counteract the effects of stress.
Deep Breathing Meditation Its easy to learn and you
can do it anywhere. Just try breathing from your stomach.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a two-step relaxation technique. You focus on one part of your body,
your right foot for example, and then tense the muscles
and then relax them. You then move on to other parts
of your body up to your head tensing and relaxing that
part as you go.
Body Scan Meditation just like progressive muscle
relaxation, you focus on specific parts of the body. But
instead of tensing and relaxing each part, you simply


We all know that exercise is good for us. Its just that we
dont have enough time to do it. Or we dont have the willpower. Or were too stressed.

Too stressed you say?

February 16, 2015.

I have good news for you. All forms of exercise can go a long
way in managing stress.[xxxiii] Heres how:
Remember endorphin? The feel good hormone? Yep. Physical activity makes you feel good.
It helps you focus. Mayo Clinic calls exercise meditation in
Regular exercise improves your mood.
Find a workout buddy, this helps you stay more enthused in
getting and staying active!

[v] Weight loss unintentional, MedlinePlus, Retrieved

February 16, 2015.

We live in a 24-hour society where stress is. If we want

to flourish in this kind of society, we have to learn how to
manage stress better.


[vii] Stress Weakens the Immune System, American Psychological Association, Published February 23, 2006, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[viii] The Science of Willpower, Stanford Medicine, Published December 29, 2011, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[ix] 10 Health Problems Related to Stress that You Can Fix,
R. Morgan Griffin, WebMD, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[x] What is Stress?, The American Institute of Stress, Retrieved February 16, 2015.

[i] Fight-or-flight response (in humans), Wikipedia, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[ii] 5 Ways Stress Wrecks Your Sleep (And What To Do
About It), Lindsay Holmes, The Huffington Post, Published
September 17, 2014, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[iii] The Impact of Stress, Steve Bressert, Ph.D., Psych Central, Published 2006, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[iv] How Stress Affects Adult Students Concentration,
Colorado Christian University College of Adult and Graduate Studies Blog, Published January 12, 2012, Retrieved


[vi] Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?, Collette Bouchez,

WebMD, Published May 13, 2005, Retrieved February 16,

[xi] The New List of Lifes Top Stressors, Mike Bundrant,

Psych Central, Published 2013, Retrieved February 16,
[xii] The Hidden Health Hazards of Toxic Relationships,
Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D., Psychology Today, Published
August 7, 2011, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xiii] Beating Self-Sabotage: Recognizing and Overcoming
It, Mind Tools, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xiv] Cognitive dissonance, Wikipedia, Retrieved February
16, 2015.

[xv] The Hidden Cause of Clinical Depression, Peter Michaelson,, Published December 12,
2011, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xvi] The Brains Dark Energy, Marcus E. Raichle, Scientific
American, Published, March 2010, Retrieved February 16,
[xvii] Is a Little Stress Good for You?, Tom Scheve, HowStuffWorks, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xviii] Being Assertive: Reduce stress, communicate better,
Mayo Clinic, Published May 15, 2014, Retrieved February
16, 2015.
[xix] How To Improve Your Relationships With Effective
Communication Skills, Elizabeth Scott, M.S.,,
Last Updated December 16, 2014, Retrieved February 16,
[xx] Effective Communication Skills: Managing Stress, Jonathan Dugger, Rich Dad Education, Published September
5, 2013, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xxi] How Does Time Management Help Reduce Stress,
And What Are Some Tips To Manage Time Better?, Jeffrey
Janata, Ph.D., ABC News, Published December 22, 2008,
Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xxii] 6 Tips to Improve Your Time Management Skills, Donna M. White, LMHC, CACP, Psych Central, Published 2013,
Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xxiii] Social support: Tap this tool to beat stress, Mayo Clin-


ic, Published August 1, 2012, Retrieved February 16, 2015.

[xxiv] Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce
stress, Mayo Clinic, Published March 4, 2014, Retrieved
February 16, 2015.
[xxv] Boost Your Health With a Dose of Gratitude, Elizabeth Huebeck, WebMD, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xxvi] 4 Tips for Slowing Down to Reduce Stress, Toni Bernhard J.D., Psychology Today, Published September 13,
2011, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xxvii] Stress relief from laughter? Its no joke, Mayo Clinic,
Published July 23, 2013, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xxviii] How to Raise Your Self-Esteem, Stanley J. Gross,
Ed.D, Psych Central, Published 2006, Retrieved February
16, 2015.
[xxix] The Difference Between Anxiety and Stress, Lindsay Holmes, The Huffington Post, Published February 25,
2014, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xxx] How to Deal with Chronic Fear and Anxiety, University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing, Retrieved February 16, 2015.
[xxxi] Spirituality and stress relief: Make the connection,
Mayo Clinic, Published July 23, 2013, Retrieved February
16, 2015.
[xxxii] Relaxation Techniques for Stress Relief, Lawrence
Robinson, Robert Segal, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A.,, Retrieved February 16,

[xxxiii] Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress,
Mayo Clinic, Published July 21, 2012, Retrieved February
16, 2015.

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