Stress is more than an emotional response to difficult situations in our lives. Stress is physical. The human body responds with amazing speed to any stressful event with about 1,400 different activities, including releasing a variety of chemicals and hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream.
Stress can lead to headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain and sleeping problems. It can also bring on or aggravate diseases like hypertension, heart problems, diabetes, cancer, lung problems, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression and anxiety.
In fact, 75 to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
Hypertension is a disorder characterized by chronically high blood pressure. It must be monitored, treated and controlled by medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination of both.
Stress and anxiety also become harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco or drugs trying to calm down. Instead of relieving the stress and relaxing the body, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems.
In today's fast-paced world, stress isn't going away anytime soon. You need to learn to live with it and get the upper hand - or it will take its toll on your health and sense of well-being.
Here are some steps you can take to help you cope with stress:
- Meditate, pray or do yoga every day - Simply quieting your mind, following your breathing and relaxing your body can get you through a stressful day with a positive mental attitude.
- Visualize - Imagine watching the sunset, sitting on a beach or floating on a lake. You'll reap the same stress-releasing rewards as if you were really on vacation. No sunscreen or Speedo required.
- Exercise - Walking just 20 minutes a day can calm your nervous system and reduce stress levels. Aerobic exercise is especially good for producing natural soothing hormones in your body.
- Breathe deeply - Sit or stand in a relaxed position. Slowly inhale through your nose, counting to five in your head. Let the air out from your mouth, counting to eight in your head. Repeat several times.
- Unwind with progressive muscle relaxation - Sit or lie down comfortably, then tense and relax one part of your body at a time. Start with your fingers and end with your toes, but don't forget your eyes and mouth.
- Make dietary changes - Reducing your sugar, carbohydrate, caffeine and alcohol intake can help restore your body to a healthful balance.
- Supplement with vitamins and minerals - A daily multi-vitamin, mineral supplement and B-vitamin supplement can strengthen your nervous system. Calcium and Vitamin C are especially helpful for maintaining a healthy nervous system under stress.
- LOL - That's right, laugh out loud. Watch a funny movie or read a humorous book. Scientific studies prove when you laugh the stress relieving hormone dopamine is pumped through the body.
- Listen to the music - The calming effects of music are so powerful dentists use it during drilling. Research proves music also accelerates your body's production of feel-good serotonin.
- Try aromatherapy - Surround yourself with calming and energizing scents like lavender, rose, jasmine, eucalyptus and sage.
- Take a warm bath - Turn down the lights, pour in the bubble bath, then release muscle tension and find inner peace relaxing in a tub.