Stress kills. Literally. Studies show that life-long exposure to chronic psychological stress elevates inflammation, which essentially creates a chemical release that produces an army of cells to attack your system. When the only thing stressing you out is your mind, you're having a "fight" response as though it's a matter of survival — but when there's no "invader" to go after, you only hurt yourself.
This probably seems like common sense — because it is. Stress is the antithesis of what we hope our lives will amount to. Everything we seek we do so in hopes of comfort: enough money, self-confidence, loving relationships, and so on. Yet, despite it being our ultimate goal, we are very quick to prioritize an evaluation of our stress levels last. For some reason, we place almost everything else in front of the one thing that will truly determine our quality of life.
Likely, this comes from the fear that if we allowed ourselves relaxation, we wouldn't accomplish anything. Aside from the existential anxiety this creates, it also activates our survival responses. We have to be productive to survive, that's no surprise. But it has to be healthfully and equally balanced with relaxation, and the nature of our productivity cannot be so overwhelming that we're literally killing ourselves just to get by.
There is another way, and it begins and ends with you training your mind to respond differently. Don't think it's possible? Try a few of these on for size. See where it takes you.
Use Your Mind To Understand Your Emotions
Don't feel an emotion and then let yourself run miles with it: observe it, see how it feels, imagine what it would say if it could talk to you — yes, seriously, do this — and then speak to it back. Become a third party managing the thoughts and emotions that pass.
Address The Fears That Are Preventing You From Making Real Change In Your Life
The reason we experience stress and discomfort is so our bodies and minds can inform us that something isn't right. When our entire lives make us feel that way, that means they have to change.
Embrace The Physical Sensations
Do you know what stress is? Tension. Do you know what tension is? Resistance. A study found that when people actually embrace and utilize their stress responses, they cope with situations better than those who deny them.
Lose The "Chosen One" Complex
It will help you accept your humanity. The less you feel as though you have to perform for yourself, the faster unwanted emotions will come and pass.
Make Choosing Peace A Habit
It will feel unnatural at first, but the more you do it, the more you'll be inclined to keep doing it.
Do Brain Training Exercises To Teach Yourself To Focus
Meditate, do cross-words, number games — anything that requires you to focus for lengths of time. Often, stress is the result of our thoughts running away from us because we don't know how to tame them. The ability to focus on a task or chosen thought is absolutely imperative, but you can't expect to win without a bit of practice before you hit the arena.
Images: Goodboy Picture Company/E+/Getty Images; Giphy (3)