Today’s Stressors: How They Impact Health and 6 Tools to Cope
We all have stress of some type in our life, whether it’s a daily commute with heavy traffic, a sick child, or an argument with a spouse. Our bodies are programmed to have an actual physical response to stress, so living with constant stress has the potential to undermine our physical health. Here’s how stress can lead to health problems and six tips for managing the stress in your life.
Fight or Flight: How It Damages Our Health
Originally the dangers humans faced were physical ones – like threats from wild animals. In the face of a threat, our bodies release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to help us have the energy to either physically fight or run away. This reaction speeds the heart rate, slows digestion, and influences blood flow.
While today’s stressors are typically not wild animals, our bodies have the same reaction, even though we don’t need to fight or flee. If you’re under chronic stress from a job, relationship, financial problems, or other ongoing situations, your body is constantly exposed to the adrenaline and cortisol, which can lead to health problems.
Health Conditions Influenced by Stress
The following are a few of the health conditions that can develop from chronic stress.
- Weight gain
- Heart disease
While these problems can also develop from other causes, stress can make an existing health problem worse. And for some patients, having a health condition can also add to stress.
6 Stress Reduction Tools
The good news is there are a number of ways we can reduce stress and boost both our physical and mental health. Start with these six tools.
Exercise decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals that give your body and mind a natural boost. Regular physical activity can also lower your reactivity to the stress in your life.
Make Time for Fun
Many people fall into the trap of feeling like they are too busy to make time for hobbies, games, or a fun outing. Yet leisure time can combat stress and depression and even help you perform better at work. What brings you joy? Whether it’s gardening, sports, reading, hiking, or a picnic with loved ones, making time for fun activities leads to better physical and mental health.
Focus on the Present
When you’re in the moment, you can’t let your mind worry about the past or the future. Meditation or mindfulness is one way to focus on the present. You may practice deep breathing, listening to a guided meditation, or simply start by paying attention to what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
The way you talk to yourself can add stress. Try to avoid harsh self-criticism, self-doubt, or catastrophic predictions. Telling yourself “I don’t have time for this,” or “I should have known this will never work,” will only add to how bad you feel. Compassionate self-talk can improve your outlook and lower the feeling of stress.
Cut Out Known Stressors
Pay attention to stress triggers that you can control, and avoid these when possible. For example, if watching the news increases your stress, consider limiting news viewing to a few times a week. For some people, too much caffeine can make them feel jittery and anxious. Take time to think about any stressors you have the power to eliminate.
Team Up with a Doctor or Counselor
A primary care doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant can help you identify and manage physical issues that could be caused by or complicated by stress. They can also point you to resources to control stress and make a plan for reaching better mental and physical health. Talking to a counselor can also help you learn to manage stress.
Get Care and Counseling from LeBauer
LeBauer HealthCare has experienced primary care providers and counselors who can help you deal with stress and any associated health problems. Both primary care and counseling services are available at nine Triad locations. Request an appointment online or find the location most convenient for you.
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