What do you do to relieve stress?
Exercise, Drink, Sleep, Meditate or Shop
You probably think you’re doing everything you can to stay healthy: you get lots of sleep, exercise regularly and try to avoid fried foods. But you may be forgetting one important thing. To relax! Stress has a bigger impact on your health than you might realise. From fueling cancer to raising the risk of heart attacks, stress can wreak havoc on our bodies.
What is stress?
In the fields of behavioural and exercise science, a distinction is made between positive stress: eustress, versus negative stress: distress. A positive stress is for example, when we place stress on a muscle, through training and the muscle gets bigger as a result of tearing and repairing; however, a negative stress can occur when we overdo it and this then results in injury and setbacks.
On the mental side, we know that a little stress can sometimes be good for us, as a motivation tool and driving us to meet deadlines, but when you’re constantly feeling under pressure, overwhelmed and anxious, the effects can actually add up to something dangerous and cause major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships and your quality of life.
How do you respond to stress?
It’s important to learn how to recognise when your stress levels are out of control. The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll.
Many health problems are caused or exacerbated by stress, including:
- Pain of any kind
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Sleep problems
- Weight problems
- Autoimmune diseases
- Skin conditions, such as eczema
Dealing with stress
Unfortunately, many people cope with stress in ways that only make the problem worse. You might drink to unwind at the end of a stressful day, fill up on comfort food, zone out in front of the TV or computer for several hours or relieve stress by lashing out at other people. However, there are healthier ways to cope with stress and its symptoms.
Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation.
You can also better cope with the symptoms of stress by strengthening your physical health:
- Set aside relaxation time. Research shows that activities like yoga and deep breathing relaxation exercises not only help reduce stress, but also boost immune functioning.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Nothing beats aerobic exercise for releasing pent-up stress and tension.
- Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress. Start your day with a healthy breakfast, reduce your caffeine and sugar intake, and cut back on alcohol and nicotine.
- Go for a massage. Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. Ever considered a career in Sport Massage, click here
- Get plenty of sleep. Feeling tired can increase stress by causing you to think irrationally. Keep your cool by getting a good night’s sleep.
Get professional help
If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consult with a counsellor or a life coach to help you learn how to manage stress effectively. He or she can help you identify situations or behaviours that contribute to your chronic stress and then develop an action plan for changing them.
Useful links: www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm