Help for handling stress

On average, we tend to only get around four hours and 14 minutes of free time a day due to work and home life pressures.

On average, we tend to only get around four hours and 14 minutes of free time a day due to work and home life pressures.

by Ada Porat —

Are you getting your seven hours of free time a day? According to new research from Direct Line Insurance, seven hours — or six hours 59 minutes to be precise — is the minimum we need for a perfect work/life balance.

The reality, of course, is a different matter. On average, we tend to only get around four hours and 14 minutes of free time a day due to work and home life pressures.

To find a time when work and life were more balanced, we need only go back to 1995. Since then, the optimal balance between work and play has steadily been deteriorating because of longer work hours, increased accessibility of wireless phones and networks, and the resulting stream of demands that continue 24/7.

Quite frankly, stress is a killer. It is responsible for 40 percent of work-related illnesses. A large international study recently found that experiencing stress can increase the likelihood of a heart attack by almost 50 percent.

Moreover, scientists found that an individual was affected as much by their perception of stress as by the actual levels of stress they experienced.

In other words, stress triggers the body’s physiological fight-or-flight response, whether the stress is an actual reality or simply something you think about as negative. In fact, most of our mental and emotional stress is caused by resistance to what is taking place or the situations we are in. Our bodies interpret our resistance as stress.

And since stress is a fact of modern life, it is essential to your health and well-being that you learn how to deal with it.

What are your strategies for coping with stress? The most common way people cope is by eating and drinking sugary beverages or alcohol. Having tea or coffee does not help — these stimulants actually have the reverse effect because your body is already hyper-stimulated. Over time, they can contribute to adrenal exhaustion or even burnout.

Instead, try to take a break away from your desk when you feel stressed. Think about moving your body and go for a brief walk. Refocus your mind on your breathing. Slow your breathing down, breathe into the belly and focus on exhaling slowly.

By interrupting the body’s physiological response to stress in this way, you can prevent it from escalating. Beyond that, you can learn specific relaxation strategies and techniques. You might even take up yoga or get a massage.

Realistically, you may not be able to fit seven hours of free time into your day to counteract the daily accumulation of stress. But doing something is clearly better than doing nothing.

Start by taking small steps — push back against stress by nurturing yourself. Self-nurturing or relaxation is no longer a luxury; it is essential if you want to stay healthy and effective.

After an intense workday, you can set healthy boundaries by turning off your phone when you finally get to spend time with your family. And just as you would schedule a meeting at work, you need to schedule enjoyable activities during your free time.

 

Ada Porat is an energy kinesiologist and life coach who helps people live their best lives. 602-283-4628 or http://AdaPorat.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 4, August/September 2013.

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