In small doses, stress can be a great thing – it’s what gives you razor-sharp reflexes when you get cut off in traffic, helps you remember important details during a big meeting, and it can even increase the effectiveness of life-saving vaccines.
Unfortunately, most folks have an adverse relationship with stress, leaving them feeling overwhelmed, burnt-out and run-down. The great news is that with a little planning, you can take control over your stress and enjoy better health and wellness – here’s how:
One of the simplest things you can do to improve your health and reduce the negative effects of ongoing stress is exercising. Low-intensity, low-impact activities like walking help your body release feel-good neurotransmitters that have been shown to enhance immune function, helping you fight off stress-inducing infections and illnesses.
We all need time to ourselves, whether it’s to pursue a favorite hobby, catch up on a TV show, or simply take a long, hot, relaxing bath. Make ‘me time’ a part of your daily stress management routine.
Stress can wreak havoc on your health, and in particular, your healthy diet. Focus on eating lots of stress-reducing, healthy whole foods like dark leafy greens, fresh berries, and fish that is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Try to avoid processed, high-fat, sugary foods that have been shown to sabotage stress management efforts by spiking your blood sugar and increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Are you a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full person? If you’re the latter, you’re already practicing a key element of effective stress management – positive thinking. Experts agree that people who tend to see the world through ‘rose-colored glasses’ often enjoy better mental and physical health than their negatively-focused counterparts, so it’s important to try to see the good in every situation, no matter how stressful it is.
People who are overwhelmed by chronic, unchecked stress often experience a host of health problems and uncomfortable symptoms that can be signs that it’s time to seek professional help. These physical symptoms can include ongoing headaches, neck and back pain, frequent colds and infections, while the cognitive effects of stress are difficulty focusing, over-sensitivity to irritants, and a general decline in productivity. If you are experiencing any of these problems on a regular basis, consider speaking to your primary health care provider.
While stress is an unavoidable part of everyone’s life, by practicing good stress management techniques you can keep your stress levels in check and prevent stress-related health problems.