When faced with the sensation of “stress”, the human body responds in a predictable, and biologically-programmed way. In other words, we look for a way to “fight” the problem – or we try to get the heck out of there. In most circumstances, this leads to a reaction in our sympathetic nervous system, which causes us to sweat, our heart to race, and our emotions to go haywire.
Unfortunately, stress isn’t just a temporary problem. When it goes unchecked, too much stress can act as a sort of poison, damaging your body and making you more prone to chronic illness. That very correlation is why two researchers during 1967 decided to comb through the records of 5,000 patients to find the link between the most stressful life events, and illness. Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe found that stressful situations could, in fact, be ranked on a scale from most to least stressful, and measured per a “Life Change Unit” score. The five most stressful events a person can face are:
- Death of a spouse or loved one
- Divorce or separation
- Moving Home
- Personal Injury or Illness
- Job Loss
Here, we’re going to look at the most significant stressful events that can take place in your life, per scientists like Holmes and Rahe. More importantly – we’re also going to look at what you can do to protect yourself from the onset of stress.
5. Job Loss
The sudden absence of income – particularly by the primary earner in a partnership or family – can be both financially and emotionally devastating. Aside from being humiliating to some, the loss of a job generally leads to depression, anxiety, and other deep emotional issues when you’re faced with things like being unable to pay the mortgage or other bills. Most people experience stress in huge doses until they either reconcile themselves to the fact that they’ll need to find a way to live on less money or get a new job.
Strangely enough, even if you were to quit your job to get a better position elsewhere, you’d still suffer from a significant amount of stress. Why? Because this change would break your typical routine and leave you feeling uncertain about the future. While some people deal with change better than other, it’s worth remembering that anything which breaks a routine is going to cause stress.
4. Major Illness or Injury
Physical or mental discomfort is always a stressful experience -, particularly for prolonged periods. Chronic illnesses or significant injuries can lead to exhaustion, chronic pain, financial complications, and even feelings of isolation and frustration. Many people who suffer from chronic illnesses or injuries eventually end up suffering from depression.
When you’re suffering from an illness or injury, you’re immediately placed in a position that prevents you from completing your daily routine. This change in circumstances leads to stress. Unfortunately, since cortisol and other stress hormones can prolong the illness and lower the immune system, you’ll need to take some immediate measures to alleviate your stress if you want to recover faster. For people suffering from injury, emotional support and sports massage is useful. For those suffering from illness, it’s important to follow a routine as prescribed by your doctor or physician, this may include massage, medicine, and a specific diet.
3. Moving Home
Even if you’re moving from your mum’s spare room into your own personal palace – the moving process is inherently stressful. Many people get confused by this process, but remember that when you move, your ordinary routines need to get shaken up and re-established in a foreign place. You need to figure out how you’re going to budget your money, and during the actual move, your typical day will often be longer and busier – leaving you to feel exhausted.
Regardless of whether it’s a positive change to your current lifestyle – everyone hates moving. Simply packing up all your Adelaide belongings then having to unpack them at your chosen destination is a pain! Since it will take a while for you to establish yourself within your new home, the best thing you can do is attempt to maintain as much as your typical schedule as possible – particularly if you’re moving with children. Remember, finding time for relaxation is key.
2. Divorce or Separation
Divorce is a complicated matter for men and women alike. Even if you’re relieved to get rid of your lazy, or cheating ex-spouse, that doesn’t mean that you get to avoid the stress that comes with separation. Aside from the variety of emotions, you’ll experience, divorce usually means that one or both spouses are forced to leave their home, and you may find that you need to deal with complicated arguments regarding finances, a division of property, and custody issues.
Similarly to death, divorce suddenly deprives a person of their financial and emotional support. As such, the body naturally reacts to the change as though it’s a threat to its survival – releasing the stress hormone “cortisol” which causes fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
1. Death of a Loved One
It doesn’t matter whether you live in Adelaide, or you’re located at the other side of the world – we all experience death in a similar way. While your grieving process may differ to the people around you, your body will undoubtedly be wrecked by a great deal of stress. Not only will you be suffering from severe negative emotions, but you’ll also find that your life is significantly disrupted in a way that you can’t control.
The unfortunate truth of death is that some people recover thanks to support from loved ones, and a devotion to personal care through relaxation massage, exercise, and healthy eating, whereas others never fully overcome the stressor. In fact, the death of a loved one can lead to several serious illnesses such as depression.
Unlike other stressful events which are generally temporary – such as divorce, moving house, or injury, the death of a loved one isn’t something that simply passes after time. This perhaps is why it’s the most difficult stressor for us to deal with. The best way to move on is to focus on your own needs and the people around you.
How to Handle the Mega Stressors in Life
The chances are you’ve sensed a pattern in the above list when it comes to relaxation and stress. Each of the most common stressors in life is uncomfortable because they indicate change. They disrupt our lives as we’re used to them. As adventurous as you might claim to be – the truth is that no human being likes to have their routine disrupted. Even if the disruption is positive, the result is significant stress.
Of course, we can’t simply move through life like robots, expecting nothing to ever change. The uncomfortable truth is that you’re going to face stressful situations throughout your life. The important thing is how you choose to handle those stressful situations. After all, there are good ways and bad ways to manage stress. Remedial massage and family support are healthy ways to promote relaxation – while downing an entire bottle of wine each night is not.
So, what can you do? How can you protect your mind and body from the detrimental impact of stress?
Step 1: Acknowledge the Stress
Unfortunately, if you want to fix a problem – any problem – in life, then you’re going to need to start by admitting that the issue exists. The first step in overcoming stress is to acknowledge that you’re suffering. This may seem simple enough, but in some cases, people find that they’re so determined to show that they can “cope”, that they’re simply unwilling to admit that they’re struggling. This is particularly true for pain patients who are used to coping with discomfort daily.
It can be difficult to admit that your stress has become overwhelming, but if you want to move on with your life, then you need to find the strength to admit when you need help. Whether that’s booking an appointment for relaxation massage, or talking to a therapist – it’s all about acknowledging your own needs.
Step 2: Look After Yourself
The major stressors in life can easily consume your life and daily routines until you struggle to find time for anything you used to enjoy or appreciate. Many people find that when they’re going through a stressful period, they devote all their free time to collapsing on the couch in front of the television, and calling that “relaxation”. The truth is, however, that you’re probably not doing anything positive for your mind and body by simply binge watching Netflix and dwelling on the problem. A better way to spend your free time would be to practice self-care.
Consider some remedial massage, or run a bath with some relaxing lavender bubble bath. In some cases, self-care may even mean indulging in your favorite hobby or forcing yourself to take part in things that you used to love. Regularly taking the time out to push yourself into an old routine that is comforting, could go a long way towards reducing your stress overall.
Step 3: Stay Healthy
When you’re suffering from a hefty dose of stress, it can seem like a good idea to let yourself fall into bad habits. Unfortunately, eating piles of chocolate and drinking alcohol on a regular basis isn’t going to make you feel better in the long run. The thing that’s going to make a difference – is looking after your health. For instance, regular exercise not only helps to boost your lifestyle by giving you more energy and improving the strength of your immune system – it also makes you happier. It doesn’t matter what kind of energy you do – so long as you keep yourself moving.
At the same way, remember to manage your diet and ensure that you’re getting the right amount of nutrition. Allowing yourself to “stress eat” all day long could lead to illnesses and further problems that make your current stress condition even worse. After all, the last thing that you want is for your divorce to lead to obesity, or your job loss to lead to alcoholism. Think carefully about what you eat and drink, and remember to put your health first.
Step 4: Get a Massage
A lot of people consider massage to be a luxury – but the truth is that it’s one of the best things that you can do for yourself when you’re experiencing significant stress. When it’s possible for you to engage in remedial massage therapy, you could find that an appointment gives you the perfect opportunity to mitigate stress and pain at the same time.
Although not all massage is the same, and you’ll need to select a style that fits your needs, remember that in almost all cases, touch can be highly therapeutic. In numerous studies, massage has been consistently proven to be perfect for reducing stress levels.
Step 5: Find Support
Finally, whether you’ve lost your job, moved home, or lost a loved one to death or divorce, almost all life stressors can feel lonely and isolating. Too often, it appears no-one else understands what you’re going through – and this can be highly frustrating. The most important thing to remember, however, is that you shouldn’t actively push people away. Allow your friends and family to remain an important part of your life – and if something that they’re doing is making you feel worse – just tell them! Most of the time, your loved ones will be happy to adjust their actions to meet your needs.
If you feel that you need extra support away from your typical family dynamic, online forums and support groups can be useful for those dealing with various life issues, from divorce, to family issues. In some cases, getting online can also lead to the discovery of various resources that inform you about your specific condition. Knowledge is power, after all.