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Health & Balance

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Rev Up Your Energy

If you just can't seem to get yourself going during the day, chances are you're being robbed by one or more of these four energy thieves.

Energy Thief No. 3: Too Much Stress

Stress is a natural part of life and manifests itself when people worry, fear for safety and security, procrastinate, or try to juggle too many responsibilities. When the strain becomes too heavy or is not handled properly, it could wreak havoc on our physical and mental well-being.

"When we are under all that stress, it generates negative emotions. It makes us sad, frustrated, angry, or depressed," says Bruce Compas, PhD, a Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor in the department of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. These negative emotions, he says, can disrupt sleep, alter eating habits, interfere with the motivation to exercise, and distract from creative and focused thinking at work.

The pressure also activates a fight-or-flight response that releases various hormones in our body. "Stress gets us prepared to make a physical response," says Compas. "The problem is that most of the stressors that we now face in modern life don't require or even allow for a physical response."

The result is a huge physical toll on our system, which can contribute to fatigue. Heart rate and blood pressure go up. Muscles prepare for movement. Without physical action, the hormones don't have an outlet for release and end up harming our cardiovascular system and possibly compromising our immune system.

To keep stress from draining your energy reserves, Compas suggests the following:

  • Take action on issues that are within your control. If pressure at work is the problem, determine what you can do to change your circumstances. Perhaps it could be looking for a different job, asking your employer or a co-worker to act a different way, or changing your work schedule. "Not taking action would be a missed opportunity," says Compas. "You can reduce stress by getting to the source of it."

  • Learn to respond to stress. For stressors that are inevitable, you can cope with relaxation techniques. Popular methods include yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation (tightening and relaxing different muscles), and meditation. Compas suggests practicing a stress management technique so that you can call up the same feeling of relaxation during stressful periods. Trying to relax without practice would be a more difficult strategy. "An example would be someone who has trouble with public speaking, and they have to give a presentation at work," Compas explains. "They're not going to learn how to relax while giving that talk. They have to learn how to relax separate from that by practicing and practicing, and then bringing that response they've now learned into the situation."

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