By Laurel Janssen Byrne
Stress is the body’s mental, physical and emotional response to changes in and around itself. Stress is normal, and everyone experiences it.
So why is managing ongoing stress important? Unrelieved stress can contribute to distress, which is a negative stress reaction. There are many symptoms of distress, like chest pain, sleep issues, blood pressure elevation, gastrointestinal disturbances, and headaches. Over time, chronic stress can contribute to diseases and severe health problems, like depression, anxiety, hypertension, heart disease, asthma, and arthritis.
It is important to control stress in positive ways, avoiding the use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, which can lead to more stress and severe health problems. Thankfully there are many positive, simple ways for you to manage your stress. Here are a few good ones:
1. Regular Exercise releases stress builds strength, and releases endorphins, the body’s natural chemical which relieves pain and improves mood. People who exercise regularly are generally happier due to reduced stress levels and improved health. A little goes a long way – a daily walk, a quick jog, an invigorating hike, lifting weights, practicing yoga, etc. Just get moving.
2. Getting enough sleep is often an overlooked key to great health and reduced stress. In fact, adequate sleep enables our body’s systems to function normally. Inadequate sleep can cause the body to release excess amounts of cortisol, or “the stress hormone.” While our bodies need some, excess amounts of cortisol can lead to weight gain and reduced immunity and can prevent us from experiencing the restorative benefits of sleep. 7-9 hours nightly is recommended by most health professionals.
3. Meditation can provide great relief from the stresses of everyday life. It trains the brain to move into a state of relaxation, rather than a stressed state. Meditation has been known to improve overall health and can reduce negative health conditions like obesity and even cancer.
4. Laughter is the best medicine and has been known to have an anesthesia effect on a stressed body. Whether it’s chatting with your favorite cousin or seeing a funny movie, start laughing!
5. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is crucial to proper bodily function. Ingesting processed foods has negative effects on the body and mind, as the chemicals, sugars, and fats in these foods can cause obesity and addiction. Ditch fast food for healthier options, like lean proteins and plenty of fruits and veggies. These healthy foods allow your body to function smoothly, controlling stress and its harmful side effects. Your grandmother was right – you are what you eat.
6. Joining a healthy community can be a fulfilling, healthy, stress-reducing experience. Whether you go to church, take a fun class, or join a kayaking club, you will benefit from being around others with common interests, which alleviates loneliness. Lonely people often suffer from heart disease more than their social counterparts.
7. Expressing your creative self can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of a healthy life. Creative expression releases endorphins, much like exercise. This lowers your heart rate, decreases your blood pressure, slows down your breathing, and lowers cortisol. Paint. Draw. Sing. Dance. Sculpt. Cook.
Call Passages Addiction Treatment Centers today if you or a loved one is battling an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. Our admissions department is available 24/7 and can be reached directly by calling our toll-free number at (888) 397-0112. We look forward to speaking with you soon.
Passages, Where Addiction Ends and Life Begins™
Photo credit: Jennifer McDougall