Stress affects everyone.
When was the last time you felt stressed? Was it a looming deadline, an unexpected bill, a work assignment, a family disagreement. . . or just about any part of everyday life?
We all feel stressed from time to time. As I write this, I have a long to-do list on the desk in front of me, in preparation for another out-of-town trip. I definitely feel some stress to get everything done before I go, though I know the deadlines are only self-imposed. Some of us cope with stress more easily and effectively than others, but all stress carries physical and psychological risks. Some stressors, like finishing my to-do list, may be brief while others, like a long-term illness, may be quite prolonged.
There is also traumatic stress caused by a sudden negative change is life such as an accident, assault or natural disaster where a person may be in danger of serious harm. This is generally short-term stress, but can result in long-term consequences.
Stress can also be a result of good things happening. A new job, a positive change in family status such as marriage or a new baby, can also be stressors.
Not all stress is bad.
Stress can motivate people to prepare or perform, like when they need to take a test or interview for a new job. Stress can even be life-saving in some situations. In response to danger, your body prepares to face a threat or flee to safety. In these situations, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival.
Long-term stress can be harmful to your health.
If your stress becomes prolonged or chronic, or you have difficulty managing or alleviating your stress, it can lead to health issues. When a response to stress goes on too long or becomes chronic, the same life-saving responses your body produces in response to short-term stress can begin to suppress some of your body’s symptoms, causing them to stop working as they should.
Some of the health conditions that can be caused or aggravated by stress are:
- Gastrointestinal Problems
- Headaches and Migraines
- Health Problems Affected by Stress:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Poor Concentration and Forgetfulness
- Respiratory issues such as asthma and bronchitis
- Skin Problems
How can you learn to manage and alleviate stress before it begins to create health problems? Here are a few ways to reduce your stress and start feeling better now.
10 Ways to Reduce Your Stress
Meditation or some type of focused devotion, such as prayer or reading from a favorite book of scripture, can help to not only calm your mind, but also your body. Meditation is shown to slow heart rate and breathing, lower blood pressure and help practitioners become more relaxed. You don’t have to set aside hours of time; as little as 10 minutes of meditation can help you reduce stress.
Physical activity stimulates the production of endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. In other words, exercise makes both your brain and body happy and counteracts the mental and physical effects of stress. And it doesn’t have to be hard. You can engage in a fast-paced game of basketball or take a leisurely walk. Both are effective stress reducers. Ideally you should exercise at least 30 minutes each day, but any exercise is better than no exercise.
- Use Music
As the old saying goes, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.” Whether it’s listening to soothing relaxation tracks on You Tube, or dancing it out to the latest hits, music helps us to feel good, relax and alleviate stress.
- Practice Gratitude
Choosing to practice gratitude, and focusing on the good things in your life, not only helps to put things into perspective, it also can stimulate those same endorphins that your brain uses to feel better.
- Take a Nap
Both our bodies and our brains need adequate rest to function well. Sometimes just giving ourselves a break and taking a good nap can make all the difference.
- Take a Hot Bath or Shower
A soothing soak or an invigorating shower are both excellent relaxers. The hot water and steam is soothing and can help to open breathing passages and relax your body’s systems.
- Get a Massage
Many of us carry our stress as tension in our bodies. A good massage can break up muscle tension, relax the muscles and lower your heart rate and blood pressure, to relax your body, and increase the production of endorphins to relax your mind as well.
- Write it Out
Journaling can be an excellent way to relieve stress. Rather than internalizing it, or venting all over another person, write it all out. But rather than hang on to it, once you’ve relieved your stress on paper, burn it up, tear it up and let it go away forever.
Laughter truly can be the best medicine. Read a funny book, watch a funny movie, have a joke fest with your friends—whatever it takes to work up a good laugh and laugh the tension away.
- Visit a Friend
Strong relationships can be one of the best antidotes for stress. Human connection is critical to our physical and emotional well-being. So to keep stress at bay, and manage it, make maintaining and spending time with friends and family who lift you up and are your support network a priority.
What’s your best method for relieving stress? Share in the comments.