Our ancestors evolved under tough circumstances. They were under nearly constant threats from natural and unnatural dangers, from wild animals to their fellow men. Our brains developed under these circumstances, and they evolved to include systems that would help these primitive people stay alive. Fear, anxiety, and stress are uncomfortable things, but they helped our ancestors recognize dangers and respond properly.
What was useful to cavemen isn’t always of use at your office, though, and modern humans are now plagued by mental health issues born of these systems. Our anxiety and stress don’t always serve us well, but we can learn to deal with them properly.
Stress and Your Health
Stress is a killer—literally, experts say. Stress can take years off of our lives, in part by increasing our risk of all sorts of other problems and ailments. Stress can increase your odds of conditions like obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, diabetes, and asthma. That’s a list that’s stressful in and of itself!
Stress can still be useful, to be sure; without it, we wouldn’t be driven to do some important and healthy things. But it can also be useless—or, as we’ve just seen, dangerous.
The Anxiety Epidemic
Anxiety and stress can be used in similar ways in casual conversation, but experts recognize distinctions between the two. Stress is the strain put on us by pressure, danger, and obligations. Anxiety is a more general feeling, especially when it’s pathological.
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive feelings of anxiety that are not clearly rooted in real-world causes. It’s just one of the many types of anxiety disorders that plague people all around the world. Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental health problems in America today—and experts believe that rates of anxiety are rising.
For more information about anxiety and your mental health, read this article from BetterHelp.
Lifestyle Changes and Work/Life Balance
Anxiety and stress are everywhere. What can we do to combat them?
It’s important to recognize that anxiety disorders and other mental health issues are not a person’s fault. That doesn’t mean, though, that there’s nothing we can do to improve our lot and better react to feelings of stress and anxiety. In fact, making lifestyle changes can enhance your mental health and help you reduce these feelings and better deal with them when they arise.
One simple way to make your mind stronger is to care for your overall health. Eating right and exercising won’t just help you slim down and become physically strong: Experts believe that it will also benefit your mental health. Poor eating and lack of exercise can contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues; proper eating and exercise can help you fight back against these same issues.
Your daily habits make a world of difference to your mental health. It’s not just what you eat and how (or whether) you exercise; it’s also when and how you work and play. Working too hard, too often, and for too long can hurt your mind. Here is a guide to self-care from Bettertools.
This sort of workaholic lifestyle contributes to anxiety and stress levels and can lead to “burnout,” a mental health condition characterized by a loss of motivation, productivity, and joy in one’s work. Working towards better work/life balance can help you conquer problems like these. Taking a trip to a perfect, peaceful vacation destination and limiting the amount of work you do when “off the clock” can make you feel more energized and happier. It can also make you more productive at work than you would be if you were working non-stop.
Sleep is crucial, too. Great sleep contributes to great mental health, while lousy sleep can worsen (and be a symptom of) issues like depression and anxiety. If you improve your nutrition, exercise habits, and work/life balance, your sleep will likely improve, too. You can also improve your sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and by improving your sleep environment (things like blackout curtains and white noise machines can help).
Getting the Help You Need
Anxiety and stress are serious health conditions, and they deserve the attention of mental health professionals. That’s why you should react to mental health problems in the same way that you’d react to problems with your physical health: By turning to the professionals.
Psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists are vital allies in the battle against stress and anxiety, explain the pros at With Therapy, a tech company that connects therapists and clients. Therapy can help enormously with anxiety and stress disorders.
Those without diagnosed disorders can benefit, too: Therapy is a source of strategies for better tackling life’s daily challenges, from communication with coworkers and loved ones to juggling stressful tasks and responsibilities.