Reduce Stress and Increase Success
There is a proven relationship between stress and physical health. A positive mental state decreases the risk of stroke and heart attack. Dealing well with stress also means reducing the risk of using unhealthy coping behaviors—like stress-eating or abusing alcohol. Stressful situations arise every day, so how can we train our bodies to destress and stay healthy?
The first stress-buster is exercise. Physical activity releases mood-lifting chemical endorphins in your body which make you feel great. Exercise also makes your heart and overall circulatory system stronger. Make a goal of 30 minutes of activity each day. If your job is sedentary, make an effort to walk around for a few minutes each hour.
Another stress-buster is incorporating some quiet mindful time into your day. Whether you do yoga, spend time in prayer, meditate or simply focus on your breathing, creating quiet space for thinking and being still has proven positive effects on blood pressure and stress levels. Experts recommend this breathing exercise: Breathe in through your nose for five seconds. Then exhale through your mouth for five seconds.
Part of this reflection time can include writing. Journaling allows you to express your thoughts and feelings freely and can relieve some of the internal stress you feel by giving you an outlet. It can be beneficial to write down several things you are thankful for each day. This boosts your mood by reminding you of the good things in your life and provides a record of reasons for gratitude which you can revisit on a difficult day.
You can also limit stress by setting boundaries. This could involve setting aside blocks of time where you don’t look at your phone or check your email. It could mean practicing saying “no” more often and not taking on every opportunity that comes your way. You have a limited amount of time and energy each day, and spreading yourself too thin only leads to burnout.
Make a New (Furry) Friend
Did you know a pet can be a great stress-reliever? Having a dog or cat greet you at the door each day will bring a smile to your face, but data shows that spending time with animals also decreases stress hormones and lowers blood pressure. Walking a dog also provides daily exercise that helps improve heart health. Pets soothe loneliness and bring humor to everyday life.
Finally, make room in your life for fun. Laughter is a natural mood booster. Laughing makes your muscles relax and stimulates circulation, which improves your physical health. You can also turn on some music to reduce your stress level, as music has been proven to stimulate dopamine production which makes our bodies feel better. Spending time with friends and loved ones—not online but in real life—has been shown to stimulate oxytocin production, a natural stress reliever in our bodies. Social interactions are also crucial in developing the relationships that see us through stressful times.
There will be stressors in life, but with proper management and some wise habits, we can deal with stress without letting it threaten our health. Would you like to learn more about stress management? The community health workers at Community Access Network have answers and tools to help. Give us a call at 434-818-7880 to learn more.