Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month? Consider this amazing fact. Up to 90 percent of doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints!
It’s important to recognize the things that cause stress in your life, understand what they can do to the body, and take measures to find some relief.
Stress is the body’s response to physical, mental or emotional pressure. It usually occurs in situations that feel out of control or unmanageable. When under stress, your body releases chemicals, such as adrenaline, to help you face the situation. This increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and makes your muscles tense.
We all experience short periods of stress at different times in our lives, whether sitting in traffic or being late for an appointment. However, long-term stress can overwhelm a person’s ability to function and lead to a host of medical concerns.
Heart Disease: Stress increases your blood pressure and heart rate. It can also release more cholesterol and triglycerides into your blood stream, which can increase your risk of heart disease. One study of heart attack survivors found that stress management classes reduced their risk of a second heart attack by 74 percent. When under stress, you are also more likely to smoke and eat unhealthy foods, which increases your risk for heart disease.
Diabetes: Stress tends to raise the glucose levels of people with type 2 diabetes. It can also lead to excessive drinking and bad eating habits, which makes the diabetes worse.
Obesity: Stress releases the hormone cortisol. This increases the amount of fat stored around the belly, which causes greater health risks than fat stored elsewhere in the body.
Headaches: Stress is one of the most common triggers for both tension headaches and migraines.
Depression and Anxiety: People in high-stress jobs have an 80 percent higher risk of developing depression than people in low-stress jobs.
Asthma: One of the symptoms of stress is faster breathing. As a result, stress can induce and worsen flare-ups in people with asthma. It can also contribute to the onset of asthma.
Arthritis: Being under stress triggers the body’s inflammatory response, which causes joint damage and makes arthritis worse.
Skin Conditions: Stress releases hormones that can cause hives, eczema and psoriasis.
Common Cold: Because stress can weaken your immune system, you are more at risk for infectious diseases such as colds and the flu.
GI Problems: Stress can lead to chronic heartburn, GERD (reflux disease), and irritable bowel syndrome. Even though stress does not cause ulcers, it can make them worse.
As you can see, stress can have a dramatic impact on your health. Fortunately, stress relievers can help restore calm and serenity to your life. If your stress is getting out of control and you need relief, follow one of these tips.
Keep Your Body Active
Virtually any form of physical activity is a good stress reliever: walking, jogging, gardening, housecleaning, biking, swimming, weightlifting or anything else that gets you active. In fact, just 10 minutes of walking can improve your energy level and mood. That’s because, when you are active, your body releases endorphins, a natural chemical that improves your sense of well-being.
Enjoy the Little Things
Because many of our lives are so busy, sometimes the best thing you can do for your health is to slow down and chill out. Downtime helps you relax and helps your mind stop thinking about the triggers that are producing stress. Spending time in nature, listening to your favorite music or addressing your thoughts and concerns to God through prayer are all effective in reducing stress.
You might also be interested to know that laughter stimulates blood circulation and helps your muscles relax. Just like exercise, laughter also increases the endorphins released in your brain.
Relax and Rest
Scientific studies have shown that meditation and deep breathing exercises can lower your stress level and create a sense of calm, peace and balance.
Also, a good night’s sleep, which is seven to nine hours for most adults, allows your body to recharge. If you don’t get enough sleep, your mood and energy level will suffer. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and stay away from electronic devices during the 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
When you are stressed and irritable, your instinct may be to isolate yourself. However, that can only make your situation worse. Talking with friends or family members about how you feel can reduce your stress. Making social connections can help, too. When you volunteer to do charitable work, for example, you are helping yourself while helping others.
If you still find yourself feeling stressed, consider reaching out for professional counseling. Therapy may also be a good idea if you are feeling overwhelmed or trapped, if you worry excessively, or if you are having trouble carrying out daily routines or meeting responsibilities at work, home or school.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, webmd