Tips for reducing stress in your life
Everyone feels stress at times, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In small amounts, stress can be beneficial, helping to motivate you to overcome challenges and reach your goals. Stress is also part of the body’s warning system that produces the fight-or-flight response. Chronic stress is very different from the sense of pressure you feel to finish an assignment or get to work on time, and it can actually wreak havoc on your body.
43% of adults are believed to be suffering adverse health consequences from stress, and up to 90% of all doctor’s visits are for stress-related conditions. The good news is stress management techniques can be very effective to help you overcome stress and live a healthier, happier life.
How Stress Affects Your Health
A large body of research has found many damaging effects of stress, including fueling cancer, increasing the risk of heart attack, and increasing the risk of chronic diseases. Here are some of the most important reasons that stress is bad for your health.
1. Stress increases your risk of disease
A study published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that people who were very stressed and anxious were more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions like arthritis and heart issues ten years later.
2. Stress can fuel cancer
An animal study found that stress may help cancer cells survive and beat anti-cancer medication. It seems the adrenaline produced during stress helps cancer cells fight the medication.
3. Stress can change your gene expression
Amazingly, the chemicals produced during stress have the ability to switch on or off genes that can change the function of your immune system, how fast your body ages, whether you develop cancer, how much fat your body stores, and more.
4. Stress increase your risk of stroke and heart disease
People who deal with chronic stress are at a higher risk of stroke than those who are not. http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/83/11/1104 Anxiety and stress also raises your risk of heart attack by 27%, which is the same as smoking 5 cigarettes a day!
5. Stress can make you sick
Chronic stress and anxiety causes your body to produce cortisol, which has the ability to slowly shut down the immune system and inflammatory response. This increases your susceptibility to infection, slows wound healing, and keeps you sick longer.
Tips to Reduce Stress
Do you have too much stress in your life? You don’t need to book a vacation to get relief, but you do need to set aside some time to take care of yourself.
- Try meditation. Research suggests that practicing meditation for even a few minutes a day can change your brain’s neural pathways to make you more resilient to stress.
- Reach out to a friend. When you’re feeling stressed out, talk to someone about how you’re feeling and get a new perspective.
- Identify sources of stress. Look for the real sources of stress in your life and try to identify any habits you can change or excuses you can get rid of.
- Listen to music. Calming music can reduce your cortisol levels and blood pressure while calming your brain and body.
- Eat a balanced diet. Avoid unhealthy foods high in fat or sugar when you feel stressed. Instead, try eating fish. Fish has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce stress symptoms.
- Watch something that makes you laugh. Laughing releases endorphins which boost your mood and lower cortisol and adrenaline levels. Try watching a movie or stand-up routine that makes you laugh.
- Drink green tea. Green tea has half the caffeine of coffee, which can raise blood pressure. It’s also a source of antioxidants and theanine, an amino acid that helps calm the nervous system.
- Exercise. Even brief amounts of exercise, such as getting up and walking around the house, reduces cortisol levels and prompts the release of feel-good endorphins. Exercise can also help distract you from the trigger causing the stress.
- Be realistic. Don’t try to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or do more than you can. Trying to accomplish too much will only cause more stress.