According to the American Institute of Stress, 75 to 90 percent of all visits to primary-care physicians are stress-related complaints. The stress response – sometimes called the “fight-or-flight” response – enables humans to deal with brief physical changes. Your body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to increase your blood pressure and give you extra energy. This set of physiological responses is Mother Nature’s way of giving an instant shot of get-up-and-go. In response, your heart thumps. Your muscles tense. Your blood vessels constrict. Your hands tremble. Your face gets hot. You start to perspire.
In the stressful world we live in, our bodies may activate the stress response chronically and often in response to psychological stressors. This can cause a variety of short and long-term problems. Constant stress can result in serious, long-term consequences. Because it weakens your immune system, stress can make you more vulnerable to colds and can cause wounds to heal more slowly. Scientists have found that stress related diseases include depression, hypertension, atherosclerosis, ulcers, colitis and reproductive dysfunction. One study links emotional stress caused by the loss of a loved one to an increased risk of early death from heart disease or cancer. Another suggests that people who suffer workplace stress are more likely to have a disorder in the body’s clot-dissolving system that can lead to the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries.
So how can you combat stress? I use these tactics, courtesy of my Stop The Clock Fitness Plan – give them a try:
Get moving. A report in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine confirms what dedicated exercisers like me have known for years: Working out can help reduce the physical effects of daily stress. Whether the exercise is a peppy jog or a soothing yoga routine, it will release mood boosting hormones called endorphins that help chase away your worries. Whenever I feel myself getting anxious, I try to force myself to take a break and go for a quick walk or do some stretches.
Slow down. The simple act of meditating or sitting quietly and clearing your mind of to-do lists, bills to pay, deadlines and all other thoughts has been shown to reduce the physical effects of stress and anxiety. For stress maintenance, try to meditate for at least five minutes daily. Find a peaceful place and use deep, controlled breathing to draw your consciousness inward and away from your everyday cares. Focus on a single object, such as a burning candle, or repeat a phrase in your head to keep your mind from wandering.
Breathe deeply. If you don’t have time for a full-fledged meditation, try this shortcut for any occasion when you feel anxious – before you have to make a presentation to your boss, say, or while you’re waiting to see the doctor. To slow down your racing heart and relax your body, take a few deep, long breaths. Draw the air into your abdomen, not the upper part of your chest. Feel your belly expand as you inhale, then release all that pent-up stress as you exhale. Within a minute you should feel the tension lessening. My Stop the Clock Plan has a variety of breathing exercises to do when in stressful situations.
Do a good deed. Turn negatives into positives by doing something kind for someone else. It can be something as small as helping an elderly person cross the street or assisting someone in the supermarket. I always help moms with strollers – I’ve been there. Go through your address book and call a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, just to say hello. Write a little “I love you” on a piece of paper and put it in your partner’s briefcase or suitcase for their next trip. It’s a nice surprise. The best gifts cost little and, what’s more, give you something back by raising your spirits.
I hope these techniques help you when it comes to managing unhealthy stress!! I think exercise truly is one of the best ways to combat stress, so when in doubt, put on a workout from your member area, and do some it – you’ll feel better!!!