Ignoring the stress you may be experiencing is not in your best interest and won’t necessarily get you another job faster. In his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert M. Sapolsky cites research, which clearly indicates that stress has a significantly negative impact on physical and mental well-being. Its effects on our cardiovascular system, immune system, memory, and mental health are now well documented.
Our nervous system is built to prepare us for danger. When confronted with a life threatening event, our nervous system triggers the fight or flight response. Hormones are released and chemical messages are sent to every part of our body. As a result, we experience short bursts of energy that can save our lives. Obviously, the stress response supports our survival as a species, but it turns out to be a double-edged sword. Unfortunately, we are capable of initiating the stress response not only to physical danger, but also when confronted with psychological fears and worries. The stress response, if engaged for prolonged periods, can be devastating. A survey study entitled The Anguish of Unemployment (2009) conducted by The John J. Heldrich Center for Work and Development at Rutgers University emphasized the impact of unemployment on our mental health. Long-term unemployment, as we face today, is linked to depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Considering the threat prolonged periods of stress present to our well being, it is truly critical that we engage in activities that have been shown to reduce the effects of stress on our bodies and minds.
You can easily find articles and books on coping with stress. Two strategies that I recommend are exercise and diaphragmatic breathing. Your physician can give you advice on the type and duration of an exercise program that’s right for you. For diaphragmatic breathing most authorities suggest twenty to thirty minutes a session three or more times a week. Personally, I rely on diaphragmatic breathing five to ten minutes a day. Search the Internet and you’ll find several descriptions and demonstrations. The idea is to inhale slowly, expanding your diaphragm (the area just below your rib cage). Then exhale slowly. I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth. I begin by clearing my mind and concentrate solely on the sensation produced by the flow of air. The experience not only reduces mental stress, it leaves my body feeling physically relaxed.