Stress. It seems like everyone you talk to is stressed out. But what is stress and how does it affect you? The body’s stress response includes your thought processes and the physical responses that occur when you are impacted by physical or emotional stress. Stress impacts every area of your life, including your emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioral health. Let’s look at the effects of stress on health.
Impact of Stress on Emotional Health
- Avoiding people
- Difficulty relaxing
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling that you need to take control
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Loss of control
- Low self esteem
- Unable to quiet your name
Impact of Stress on Physical Health
- Chest pain
- Clenching your jaw
- Cold hands and feet
- Decreased energy levels
- Decreased libido
- Dry mount
- Grinding your teeth
- Heart palpitations
- Hot, sweaty hands and feet
- Increased number of colds and infections
- Muscle pain
- Muscle tension
- Ringing ears
- Swallowing difficulties
Impact of Stress on Cognitive Health
- Constant worrying
- Focus difficulties
- Poor judgment
- Racing thoughts
Impact of Stress on Behavioral Health
- Appetite changes – eating too much or too little
- Avoiding your responsibilities
- Drug usage
- Increased cigarette smoking
- Increased nervous behaviors
- Increased use of alcohol
- Nail biting
If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is time to find your calm and improve your health. Need more proof? Let’s look at the consequences of long term stress on the body.
Effects of Chronic Stress
Prolonged stress, often referred to as long term or chronic stress, can lead to a number of serious health issues. Chronic stress is defined as emotional or physical pressure over an extended period of time, lasting at least three months. Chronic stress causes:
- Cardiovascular Disease – Congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, stroke, and heart attack
- Gastrointestinal Issues – Gastritis, irritable colon, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, GERD
Hair – Hair loss
- Menstrual Issues
- Mental Health Issues – Depression, personality disorders, and anxiety
- Sexual Dysfunction – Impotence, low libido, premature ejaculation, loss of desire
- Skin Issues – Acne, eczema, psoriasis
Relieve Your Stress
Stress is a part of everyone’s life; so, there is no way to totally avoid stress. Instead, you need to find practical ways to deal with your stress and overcome its effects on your body and mind. The below stress relief techniques can help improve your health:
- Eating for Your Health
- Exercise Techniques
- Social Activities
Eating to Improve Your Health
When individuals are stressed, they will either reach for junk food or avoid eating altogether. Neither of which is good for your health. Junk food and stress impact your health in a number of ways. First, when you are stressed and eat junk food, you are feeding your fat cells, allowing them to grow faster. Instead of reaching for foods that are high in sugar, try the following foods that can help improve your health and lower your stress levels.
- Dark Leafy Greens – Dark leafy green veggies are packed with folate. Folate is used to help produce neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood.
- Quality protein – Adding 3-5 oz of protein to your main meals will help your body keep blood sugar in check and reduce cravings.
- Fermented Foods – Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi improve digestive health where many mood boosting chemicals are produced. Ensuring your digestive tract is functioning properly will boost your mood and reduce your stress levels.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acid – Omega 3 fatty acids, along with DHA and EPA help to reduce anxiety and depression. Omega 3s are found in cold water fatty fish like salmon. It can also be found in avocados.
- Blueberries -Blueberries contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins which help increase dopamine production. Dopamine helps boost your mood and decrease stress levels.
Exercise and Decrease Stress Levels
Exercise, even 10 minutes of aerobic activity, can help relieve your stress. Many people groan when you mention exercise; however, there are a variety of exercises that are enjoyable and will help decrease your stress levels and improve your health. Seventy percent of adult Americans report they experience stress daily. Health professionals around the world agree that exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Physical activity causes the body to increase endorphins which help reduce stress, relieve pain, and improve your sleep. Try the following type of workouts to improve your health:
- Martial arts – kickboxing, karate, judo, taekwondo, and Krav Maga
- Team sports – tennis, soccer, softball, golf, disc golf, kickball, volleyball, and basketball
- Total body workout – walking, jogging, swimming, and exercising at the gym
- Tai Chi
Enjoy the Outdoors and Decrease Stress
Many people are surprised to learn that spending some time outdoors can decrease their stress. Sitting outside for 15 to 30 minutes in the sunshine can boost your vitamin D levels. Research has found that even 10 min of sunlight exposure first thing in the morning helps reduce stress and anxiety as well as help with seasonal mood disorder. Furthermore, taking the time to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature helps to get your mind off your daily routine and helps you relax.
Dance Away Your Stress
Dancing and upbeat music is the perfect way to reduce your stress. Whether you crank up your favorite tunes and move to the beat of the music or you take a dance class, you can reduce your stress levels and improve your health. Dancing provides you with a creative outlet to express how you are feeling as well as get the exercise that your body needs.
Meditate Your Way to Lower Stress
Meditation is a stress relief practice that helps you remain rooted in the present rather than worrying about the future. Meditation begins by focusing on pleasant noises like the sounds of nature. When you are meditating, you allow thoughts to simply drift through your mind without giving much consideration. Simply acknowledge your thoughts and then return to focusing on the sounds around you to create a sense of calm. Don’t feel the need to create the perfect meditation environment? Even 5 minutes of quiet time will slow down your thoughts and help you focus better.
Focused Breathing for Stress Relief
Breathing is automatic, and most people do not give the act of breathing much thought. Unfortunately, automatic breathing is shallow. Long controlled breaths trigger the relaxation response and help reset the brain. There are several different breathing techniques that you can use to help lower your stress, including:
- Equal breathing
- Kapalabhati (Skull shining breath)
- Progressive relaxation
Travel can help you get away from the things that are causing you to be stressed. It can help you decompress and have a new perspective. Typically, vacations are used for a time of relaxation and play. You spend time outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air. When you travel, you do not need to stick with a schedule, which can help reduce or eliminate your stress.
Aromatherapy uses the power of essential oils to create a calmness that helps to reduce your stress level. Some of the top essential oils to use include rosemary, lavender, Ylang-Ylang, and lemon oil. Each offers a different compound to help reduce stress levels and promote a sense of calmness. You can use essential oils in diffusers or apply diluted essential oil to your wrists, neck, or temples.
Volunteering helps you change your focus off of what is causing your stress and helps you focus on improving the lives of others. In addition to this, volunteering increases your gratitude. As you begin to develop an attitude of gratitude, you will soon realize that the things you are stressing over should not have the hold on you that they have.
Journaling is a great way to reduce your stress. You can use your journal to express your emotions. Sometimes simply writing out what is bothering you can make a difference. Another way to find your calm is to create a gratitude journal. Simply, write down four to six things that you are thankful for each day. In the beginning, it can be difficult to find that many things; however, as you continue journaling, you will rewire your brain and soon find blessings everywhere.
When you face a stressful situation, your body reacts by releasing a variety of stress hormones to help you be ready to fight or run away from a situation. In the short term, stress can be beneficial, but when you are under constant, chronic stress, it can increase your risk of illness and disease. Learning how to lower your stress is the first step toward improved health. The health coaches at Rose Wellness understand the importance of learning how to reduce stress levels.