Take a minute; where are your stress levels right now?
43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress with 75-90% of all doctors’ visits associated with stress related ailments. Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis o f the liver and suicide. It is prevalent and it is expensive. The U.S. loses approximately $29 billion every year due to reduced productivity, absenteeism, and premature death.
Stress can come from many sources; from strains in your everyday life, such as a difficult job or relationship issues, to life changing events, such as a family members death, a divorce, or the loss of a job. Even happy events such as moving to a new home or welcoming a new baby can cause stress.
When we are under stress our body releases chemicals that cause faster breathing, digestive changes and increased blood pressure. Stress also makes us more vulnerable to viruses, infections, allergies, inflammation, heart conditions and autoimmune disorders.
So how can we manage stress so it doesn’t take over our lives?
You need to put your energy into areas that can be managed and anticipate and plan for the future. Make sure you have time and energy saved for the unexpected, the unplanned, and the occasional crisis event.
A few stress management suggestions:
- Relax. Read a book, schedule a massage, have your nails done. You know what helps you relax — make time for it.
- Stop Smoking. Nicotine boosts stress levels. Make a commitment to quit smoking. If you need help, FMH has a Smoking Cessation Program available.
- Limit coffee and alcohol. Caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant.
- Exercise is known to improve cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and support the immune system. Make time and make it happen.
- Sleep. On average, people need 8 hours of sleep per night. Again, make the time to get enough rest.
- Set Limits (and stick to them!). Don’t take on too much. If your job is ruining your health consider changing careers. If it’s not quite that dire, physically getting up and away from your work is helpful. Take a brisk walk around the building and allow yourself a lunch break.
- Stop Unhealthy Thoughts. When you’re stuck in traffic do you get angry or think of the worst-case scenario? Negative thoughts tend to escalate into anxiety and compound the physical effects of stress. Because thought patterns are often an ingrained behavior, most people find it difficult to break free of bad thinking habits. To really change your thinking you need to work with talk therapist or cognitive behavioral therapist.
- Socialize! Social connections elevate your mood which buffers against stress.
Want more? Here you go! A few more quick tips for easing stress:
- Deep breathing
- Warm bath
- Positive thoughts
- Write it down
- Skip the “coulda, shouldda, wouldas”
- Learn something new
- Take breaks
- Get rid of clutter