April is Stress Awareness Month, but let’s face it: every month is stress month. Stress is mostly silent but very prevalent in all our lives. It’s the email we got at work that nags away as we drive home (in traffic). It’s the concern about family life, the apprehension about how safe our communities are and the nervousness about losing a loved one, a job or a health problem afflicting and not being able to cope. Not to mention the larger issues: our nation’s economy and political climate.
Stress can affect everything, from our sleep patterns, to diet and emotional health. Stress affects much more than how we think and feel about life. Stress can be a major factor in long-term chronic conditions; exacerbating them and causing some, like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Weight gain is a major factor in long-term, chronic stress. Our bodies produce cortisol when we’re under stress, which increases a person’s appetite.
The American Psychological Association recently reported that while all adults report feeling stress, women are 16% more likely to feel stress than men. GenXers, Americans aged 39 – 52, also report the highest levels of stress and nearly half of all Americans surveyed said they’ve laid awake at night in the past month due to stress.
So, what do we do? How can we reduce stress levels in our increasingly volatile and emotionally challenging world? Of course, saying we need to eliminate stress sounds silly. There may be little things we can do, like changing jobs or reducing expenses to ease financial burden, but the eliminating stress completely just isn’t feasible.
Here are a few realistic ways we can reduce stress. Just a few small changes can make a difference:
Cut back on alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. Alcohol is a depressant in large quantities and caffeine and nicotine are stimulants. Consuming these substances can affect our bodies stress levels in harmful ways, making our stress problems worse. Check with your doctor about drinking wine or beer once a day or a few times a week.
Exercise. Not enough can be said about this stress reducer. Physical activity increases our body’s ability to deal with stress on a daily basis. It improves our heart function, reduces stress-inducing hormones and creates endorphins that elevate our mood. Exercise with friends or family, listen to your favorite music (side benefit: music is another stress reliever) or take a class at your local gym. Moving really works.
Make daily relaxation techniques routine. Meditating doesn’t mean sitting alone on a mountain top. You can meditate anywhere: home, at the office or even standing in line at Target (just don’t meditate while you drive). There are tons of great meditation apps you can use on your phone: Headspace, Calm, Stop, Breathe & Think are just a few. Just a few minutes of relaxing your mind and ‘resetting’ yourself can bring calm to your body.
Remember, if stress gets you to the point where you feel completely overwhelmed and you’re starting to feel like you have nowhere to turn, there is help. National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
The blog is written by Lisa Dawson, the Director of Marketing at The Colony ER Hospital.
Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on The Colony Emergency Room Hospital or any one of our concierge-level, freestanding emergency facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.