5 Ways to Conquer Stress (and Protect Your Health, Too)
These simple stress-busters can help quiet your mind and improve your physical wellbeing.
Most of us deal with one stressful situation after another on any given day: The morning commute is a nightmare, you have deadlines to meet, you get a cold … then everyone gets a cold. With those sniffles, the stress on your body is evident. With other types of stress, the damage is sneaky.
With acute stress – like the short-term stress you feel in a traffic snarl – your body releases the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones temporarily increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Your body returns to normal operation once the acute stress has passed.
However, prolonged or recurrent stress, called chronic stress, keeps your heart rate and blood pressure elevated. This pattern increases your risk for hypertension, heart attack, high cholesterol or stroke.
Nearly every organ and system of the body can suffer inflammation and other damage from chronic stress. The health-damaging effects are serious and varied:
Diabetes and other metabolic disorders
Headaches and migraine
A little bit of stress is normal, but most people experience more than a healthy amount. Establish these five, simple stress-busting habits to help protect your health.
- Get adequate sleep. Restorative sleep helps the body keep cortisol at a healthy level, reducing systemic inflammation. Your most powerful sleep tool is a consistent bedtime and wake-up time. Also, power off electronic devices an hour or so before bedtime, and keep your bedroom cool, quiet and comfortable.
- Stay moving. Exercise is a good-for-you kind of stress. It boosts endorphins and lifts your mood, while getting your heart rate up in a healthy way. Regular exercise can also improve sleep, further loosening the grip stress has on your health.
- Carve out “me time.” The hour or two before bed may be the perfect time to focus on you, quiet your mind and detangle from a hectic day. Exorcise what rattles you through meditation, a good book, a warm bath or a soothing playlist.
- Let the sunshine in. Sunshine increases serotonin, acting as a natural anxiety reliever. All it takes is 5 to 15 minutes per day of natural light to reap health benefits.
- Keep a positive attitude. Looking on the bright side can do wonders for the body. Start with simple gratitude for your blessings in life and make a conscious decision to mentally let go of stressors. Stop worrying over things you can’t control. Instead, empower yourself by changing what you can control. For example, you could work with your primary care provider on a personalized health plan to help you improve and preserve your physical condition.
Bonus tip: Did you know your doctor can help you manage the effects stress has on your body and mind? Build a relationship with a primary care provider. They can assist you in creating a stress-management plan to help you stay healthier, longer.
BJC Medical Group is home to more than 130 health care locations and hundreds of doctors and nurse practitioners. Use BJC’s online scheduling to find a provider accepting new patients who’s right for you and schedule your appointment.
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