Stress is our bodies natural survival response to keep us alive when we experience a life threatening event. It is commonly referred to as the fight -or- flight response. When that response is sustained over long periods of time it can become harmful to our health. Chronic stress influences our body, mood, and behavior.
There are many factors in our daily life that can cause chronic stress such as difficult people, work-load, financial problems, life events and changes, health problems, inability to set limits, focusing on the negative or even expecting perfection. Unmanaged stress can cause health issues like high blood pressure, chest pain, fatigue, stomach upset, sleep problems, headaches, muscle tension, decreased ability to focus, ringing in the ears and even a weakened immune system. It can also worsen existing health problems.
Unfortunately, many of us control stress by using external supports such as comfort/snack foods, tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and even drugs. Sadly, using many of these as support for stress leads to more health issues which only intensifies stress instead of decreasing it as desired. The good news is you CAN learn to manage your stress in healthful ways!
Here are several things you can try as you seek to minimize the effects of stress on your health.
- Add nutrient rich foods to your meals and snacks. Select lean meats like turkey breast or salmon, include lots of leafy greens, whole grains like oatmeal, or snacking on fresh blueberries or pistachios. Many of these foods have phytonutrients that can actually provide a calming effect.
- Get a full nights rest. Most adults need seven to eight hours a night.
- Spend time with family and friends.
- Exercise on a regular basis, it can really boost your mood and increase self-esteem.
- Reduce your intake of sugar and caffeine.
- Let a few things go and have a good laugh every day.
- Try practicing deep breathing: when we take shallow breaths, if causes insufficient oxygen intake and creates more stress. Try taking deep full breaths, hold for a count of eight, and then slowly let out the breath.
With a little practice you can learn to control your stress in natural ways and decrease your dependence on external methods. A CDL Wellness Coach can help! You may even lose a few pound in the process.