In this fast-paced society we live in today, you might find yourself doing a juggling act of tasks to balance your work and home life. Would you say that you might be living with certain levels of stress because of it? If you had to guess, what would you say is one of the leading causes of stress in the United States? If you guessed money, you guessed 75% correct. The pressures we experience at work are just above money, which is one of the leading causes of stress. We can also add health and poor nutrition, personal relationships, media overload and sleep deprivation to that list. Now, go back and take a good hard look at your day…is it safe to say that you are forced to manage certain stressors on a regular basis? How do you manage stress in your life to not affect you in a negative way?
Over 70% of the American population regularly experiences some level of stress. Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. It initiates our ability to react to the fight-or-flight response, which is a result of the release of two chemicals: adrenaline and cortisol. How we react to stressors is affected by genes (the balance of such chemicals) and life experiences.
Some of the physiological effects and responses of stress are anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, hypertension, elevated heart rate, poor quality of sleep, and weight gain, as well as memory and concentration impairment. Our stress response system is self-limiting, meaning that once the stressor is no longer present our physiological response will resolve itself and go back to baseline or “normal.” With chronic stress, the continuous physiological effects can lead to developing heart disease, severe anxiety and depression, chronic fatigue, social withdrawal, or it can lead to drug and alcohol abuse. But don’t worry, there are many ways to manage and control stress.
Stress management is our ability to react to stress in a healthy way. You can start by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep. Secondly, practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga, stretching, meditation, deep breathing or even getting a massage. This can help you lower your blood pressure, as well as regulate your heart rate. Make some time for hobbies: reading, drawing, coloring, painting, etc. Many studies have proven this to be effective when lowering anxiety. Have you ever heard that laughter is good for the soul? It helps release endorphins, the “feel good” chemical, into our bloodstream. And if you still have a difficult time managing stress, seek professional help. Your health depends on it.
Judith Briseno, Health & Fitness Professional, My Fitness Zone