Stress tolerance: How much stress is too much?

There’s a factor that people don’t always take into account when thinking about the stress in their lives. It’s called stress tolerance – your ability to handle stress in a healthy, balanced way.

For some, stress is easier to take (or they even enjoy it!) but others have a lower tolerance so they will feel the physical effects of stress more quickly, and more harshly, throughout their life.

Let’s break down a bit about what stress tolerance is, and them some strategies to understand or even improve your own level of tolerance.

We’re all different. Some people seem to be able to roll with life’s punches, while others tend to crumble in the face of small obstacles or frustrations. Some people even thrive on the excitement of a high-stress lifestyle. For example, your morning commute may make you anxious and tense because you worry that traffic will make you late. Others, however, may find the trip relaxing because they allow more time and enjoy listening to music while they drive.

What’s stressful for you?

Karen is terrified of getting up in front of people to perform or speak, while her best friend, Nina, lives for the spotlight.
Phil thrives under pressure and performs best when he has a tight deadline, while his co-worker. Matt shuts down when work demands escalate.
Anita enjoys helping her elderly parents. Her sister, Constance, helps out as well but finds the demands of caretaking very stressful.

Factors that influence your stress tolerance

Your resiliency to stress depends on many factors, but there are steps you can take to improve your tolerance and handle more setbacks and challenges without becoming overwhelmed by stress.

Emotional awareness. Many of us are so used to being overloaded with stress that we don’t even notice it anymore. Feeling stressed feels normal. But awareness of what you’re feeling, physically and emotionally, can have a profound effect on both your stress tolerance and how you go about reducing stress. Having the emotional awareness to recognize when you’re stressed and then being able to calm and soothe yourself can increase your tolerance to stress and help you bounce back from adversity.

The quality of your relationships and support network. Social engagement has always been a human being’s most evolved response to life’s stressors. So it’s no surprise that people with a strong network of friends and family—with whom they’re comfortable sharing emotions—are better able to tolerate stress. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the less opportunity you have for social engagement and the greater your vulnerability to stress.

Physical activity. Regular exercise can lift your mood and serve as a distraction to your worries, allowing you to find some quiet time and break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress and anxiety.

Diet. The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with life’s stressors. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress while eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help you better cope with life’s ups and downs.

Other factors that influence your stress tolerance

Your sense of control – It’s easier to take stress in your stride if you have confidence in your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges. This is why hardship or persistent money worries can be major stressors for so many of us. If you feel like things are out of your control, you’re likely to have less tolerance for stress.

Your attitude and outlook – Hopeful people are often more stress-hardy. They tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humor, and accept change as an inevitable part of life.

Your knowledge and preparation – The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less stressful than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately.
– via www.helpguide.org

Strategies to Increase Your Emotional Resiliency

One of the best ways to increase your stress tolerance is to improve your emotional resiliency – the stronger your emotional wellbeing, the better and easier you will handle whatever life throws at you.

These are a few simple ways to put yourself on better footing.

Find a good chiropractor.

How can you be relaxed, optimistic and collaborative if you experience severe neck-pain or aches in your back on a daily basis? There’s no way. Chiropractors can help. They identify and correct misalignments of the vertebrae that can cause you a great deal of pain which will increase your stress-level. Make a chiropractic adjustment a part of your routine to feel more harmony in your body and mind and stay resilient to stress.

Spend quality time with your loved ones.

Building stronger family boundaries will help decrease your level of stress and increase the level of empathy, love and support around you. Establish “Family Dinner Fridays” when everyone will prepare and eat a healthy meal. Sit at a table and share a meaningful conversation with your loved ones. No TV or cell phones allowed!

Practice relaxation techniques.

Some people claim they don’t have time to practice relaxation techniques. Well, your car won’t drive without gas and regular oil change. Similarly, your body won’t function at its best without being recharged through deep breathing and other techniques.

Allow yourself 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

If you can’t find time sleep for 8 hours, take a power-nap during a day. This strategy is vital for reducing stress. When you go to bed, leave your cell phone outside of the bedroom or at least turn it off. Listen to some relaxing music. Light some candles. Think about something pleasant. If you live in a city, use earplugs to avoid being disturbed by loud noise. If you don’t have the ability to sleep for 8 hours a night, take 1-2 power-naps throughout the day. It will help you recharge your batteries and allow for new, fresh energy, creativity and positive mood.

Be grateful.

Start a Thanksgiving Journal to exercise and improve your gratitude. I have one, so every day, before going to bed, I write five thanks to people for their acts of kindness or nice words of support. I don’t take those positive moments for granted and, in return, my Thanksgiving Journal provides a strong evidence that life is good, which fills me up with optimism, hope and enthusiasm.
– via Power to Change

How have you increased your own stress tolerance?