Change Your Life, Reduce Your Stress
By Barbara Floria |
Here are proactive steps you can take to prevent the toll stress takes on your life.
Stress as we know it is part of life. From being late to work to falling behind on monthly bills, stress is so common that we begin to see it as normal.
Too much stress, especially the kind experienced daily, overloads our capacity to recover. It can lead to short- and long-term illnesses, such as immune-system impairment, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
“The fight-or-flight stress response is a primitive hormonal reaction initiated by any threat to our physical safety,” says Stephen Reed, M.D., coauthor with Penny Kendall-Reed of The Complete Doctor’s Stress Solution. “But in today’s world, this reaction occurs in response to perceived threats, such as work deadlines or traffic jams, even though they aren’t physically harmful. As a result, the body becomes overloaded with repeated doses of cortisol and adrenaline.”
Back to normal
In an ideal environment, once a threat or stressor is gone, our physical responses are designed to return to normal.
“However, when we experience chronic stress, the type triggered by a bad marriage or an extremely taxing job, the lack of recovery and ongoing low-level secretion of cortisol cause damage to the body,” explains Kendall-Reed.
Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to prevent the toll stress takes on your life.
Solutions for chronic stress are varied. Approaches are more or less helpful depending on your mental and physical strengths and weaknesses.
Although you may believe this is a time-efficient way to get things done, it’s easy to become overloaded. Instead, tackle projects one at a time.
Learn to say no
“People often have a problem saying no to others for fear of hurting or upsetting them,” says Dr. Reed. “But, learning where your boundaries are and how much you can reasonably handle is crucial to putting a stop to endless responsibilities and chronic stress.”
Avoid known stressors
Some parts of your day may increase your stress. If so, try to alter your routine to avoid or reduce their impact. For example, if you get upset in heavy traffic, find ways to make the time spent more enjoyable by listening to soothing music.
Put a priority on sleep
Sleep is a built-in restorative that can make a huge difference in how you bounce back from daily pressures.
Regular exercise helps protect the cardiovascular and immune systems from the consequences of stressful events. Whether it’s swimming or walking, find time to be physically active on a regular basis.
Learn and practice relaxation techniques
These techniques, including deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can be used when you’re under acute stress. They can help you feel better fairly quickly.
Eat a healthy diet
Try to avoid sugar, caffeine, and highly processed foods. This will stabilize blood sugar levels and help you remain on an even keel.
If you experience chronic stress, talk with your doctor or a health care professional.
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