Health Benefits of Reducing Stress
Stress is a part of everyday life. It can be happy stress, traumatic stress, or a compilation of daily stressors. The problem with stress is that if it’s not controlled well, it can wreak havoc on your mind and body.
Controlling stress is so important. When the body encounters a sudden stressful situation, there is a combination of nerve and hormonal signals. This system prompts your adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones trigger what is known as the “fight or flight response”. The body’s stress response is usually self-limiting. The perceived threat passes and the hormone levels return to normal. However, when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, the fight or flight reaction stays on. This long-term activation of the stress response system and overactivity of the stress hormones and cortisol levels can lead to long-term problems and can cause problems with all of your body’s processes.
Long-term stress without relief can increase the risk for many health problems, including:
- Weight gain
- Sleep problems
- Digestive problems
- Memory and Concentration impairment
- Muscle tension and pain
There are other issues that can arise as well, this isn’t an all-inclusive list. It is so important to learn to cope with life stressors in a healthy way. How we handle stress is influenced by genetics and life experiences. Learning what triggers our stress and how to manage stress is critical in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Stress management strategies can include:
- Eating a healthy diet, full of all the major food groups and with decreased processed foods
- Getting regular exercise, being outside is a great way to decrease stress
- Getting plenty of sleep. We underestimate the importance of sleep in handling life stressors
- Practicing relaxation techniques including yoga, deep breathing, massage, or meditation.
- Fostering healthy friendships, and having a community of people who are there to support and lift you up is critical.
- Keep a journal and write about your thoughts and what you are grateful for in life
Avoid unhealthy ways of managing stress, including alcohol, excessive food, starvation, tobacco, or drugs.
The benefits of managing stress can include peace of mind, a better quality of life, better self-control and focus, better relationships, and in the end can lead to a longer, healthier life.
What is your go-to for handling stress? What works for you?