Stress & Your Health
Stress. We all experience it. Work stress, school stress, family stress, financial stress. Short-term, time limited stress is a normal part of life. It can actually be beneficial – stress can provide a burst of energy to help us get things done, stress can increase resiliency and tolerance for change. Stress can help focus our attention to get a project done before the deadline. Even events that are exciting or happy can create stress – buying a house, starting a new job, having a child, graduation, getting a promotion. Stress can also protect us from harm, alerting us to danger and allowing the body to move quickly out of the way of danger.
The problem with stress is when it becomes chronic, when many stressors happen at the same time, or when the stressor doesn’t seem to have an end point or a solution. This chronic stress can literally be felt in the body. Our culture is filled with phrases that describe the body’s response to stress – “I’m so worried/anxious/stressed I feel sick to my stomach” “I’ve got so much to do, I can’t sit still” “I was up all night worried about getting that report done”
It’s important to know the signs of chronic stress such as muscle tension, nausea/bowel problems, decreased memory or concentration, appetite or sleep changes, and feeling depressed or moody. Once you recognize these signs, you can start taking steps to combat chronic stress.
· Exercise – this is just as important for your mind as your body. Exercise can lower stress hormones, improve sleep, and decrease anxiety.
· Spend time with family and friends – having a strong social support system can help decrease stress and help you cope with life’s challenges.
· Engage in a hobby – engaging in activities you enjoy can be a great way to relieve chronic stress
· Develop a mindfulness practice – mindfulness practices are becoming popular ways to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Try a mindfulness app or check out MyStrength for tips on how to start a mindfulness practice.