Stress can be good and stress can be harmful. It can motivate you to get a promotion at work or run the last mile of a marathon. But if your stress becomes long-term, it can have harmful effects on your work performance, family life, and health. Top stress triggers include:
- Work stress: heavy workload, unclear expectations, long hours and lack of support
- Family stress: too many activities, financial obligations, caring for a sick family member
- Traumatic events: natural disasters, theft, automobile accident, violence
- Change: moving, death in the family, divorce
- Fear and uncertainty: threat of terrorism, global warming, depressed economy
- Unrealistic expectations: if you expect to do everything right all the time, you're going to feel stressed when things don't go as expected
Your stress levels can differ from others based on your personality type and your response to situations but constant exposure to elevated stress hormones can have negative effects on your health including accelerated aging and increased risk of illness. Other health conditions that are accelerated by long-term stress:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Acid reflux/ulcers
- Weight gain
- Diabetes (through weight gain and unhealthy eating habits)
- Skin problems like eczema and psoriasis
The good news is there are active daily practices you can use to help relieve your stress and lower your exposure to stress hormones.
- Exercise: Every time you are physically active, whether you take a walk, use the elliptical machine, play tennis or go swimming, your body releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Exercising not only melts your stress away, it also protects against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and helping you maintain a healthy weight.
- Meditation: Focused thought and deep breathing used in meditation, prayer, and yoga have been shown to reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure. These practices also relax the mind and body thereby releasing stress and tension.
- Spending time in nature: A study published in July 2018 by Norwich Medical School found that spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration. The study also found that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people's levels of salivary cortisol -- a marker of stress.
- Music as therapy: Music not only soothes everyday anxiety, research shows that it’s particularly beneficial when you are in the midst of stressful events, like surgery or before a big test. Even if you don't have access to recorded music, humming or making your own music also helps.
- Practicing gratitude: When you notice yourself complaining about a negative event or stressor in your life, try to think of five related things for which you are grateful. For example, when feeling stressed at work, try to think about five things that you like about your job.
The key to successful de-stressing is making your practice a consistent part of your daily routine. Letting go of stress every day allows levels of stress hormones to drop back down, relieving your body of their harmful effects.
Call (808)877-6611 for an integrative stress management appointment or request an appointment online at www.drruidas.com