April is National Stress Awareness Month, which is as good a time as any to think about the role stress plays in our busy, everyday lives and the way it can affect our health.
Stress is fact of a life. Everyone experiences it in one form or another.
Too much stress, however, can contribute to serious health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. It can also lead to anxiety and its various symptoms, including breathing difficulty. A strong relationship with your primary care physician is always recommended to keep you on the right track.
Now, not all stress is bad. There is the good stress or the small doses of stress that keeps us alert and motivated to achieve goals such as completing a work or school project.
It’s the bad stress, better defined as chronic or excessive stress, which we need to worry about because that’s the type that tends to keep us up at night and has long-term effects.
Chronic stress may involve anger and other negative emotions. It can impact your sleep, ability to lose or maintain weight, and productivity at work.
Common effects of chronic stress can include:
- Stomach upset
- Trouble sleeping
It's important to manage stress as part of your everyday routine. It will make you become more resilient when it comes to responding to unexpected things that arise and cause you stress.
“Some stress is unavoidable, but you can do plenty to prevent it from taking a toll on your health including by exercising regularly, eating healthy, staying hydrated and getting the right amount of sleep,” said Paul Brydon, DO, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo.
Here are 5 tips to help you routinely manage stress:
Physical activity helps significantly to reduce stress. The key to sticking with an exercise routine is to find something you like doing. Try a new activity or start working out with a friend.
When you stick to a healthy eating plan, your blood sugar remains more stable throughout the day, leaving you better able to manage what life throws at you. In contrast, eating in response to stress – which often includes choosing foods loaded with sugar, salt or fat – can send you on an emotional and physical rollercoaster.
Your body requires sleep to function at its best. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night and try not to let your busy life get in the way of the sleep you need. Remind yourself that a good night’s rest makes you more effective at handling your long to-do list during the day.
At some point, it may be beneficial to let go of some of the things that are causing stress, especially if they can’t be controlled. Make a list of everything that may be contributing to your stress level, and look for those factors you can reduce or eliminate.
Both yoga and meditation are proven methods to relax the mind and reconnect with the body. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a structured combination of yoga and meditation specifically designed for relief of the physical symptoms of stress.